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Welcome to the NERD update

(March 2010)


The NERD update is the latest IMBM initiative that attempts to demystify the public’s perception of Science. In addition, it attempts to translate the jargon of our scientific articles as well as giving a light hearted insight into the inner workings of a research laboratory. NERD is a tongue-in-cheek abbreviation for “New Enterprises, Research and Developments”, and it is hoped that the updates will appeal to a mainstream cyber-audience, and promote inquiry and debate about the institute’s activities. NERD will be updated at least once a month, with more frequent posts being added during active days and weeks. If you have any compliments or criticisms, please feel free to share your views with us at or, and we will certainly read and ignore your comments.

IMBM has a new home

(March 2010)

Since its inception in 2008, IMBM has experienced a rapid increase in personnel, scientific activity and publication output. As a result, it exceeded the functional limits of its locality in terms of space and resources in the Old Chemistry building at the University of the Western Cape. Fortunately, earlier this month, the institute relocated to the second floor of the new Life Sciences building. The new facilities included a spacious laboratory, access to two balconies and two boardrooms; the smaller of which is equipped with a flatscreen LCD TV for powerpoint presentations. The only defect observed was the open plan design of the student workbenches which, by virtue of their close proximity to management’s transparent glass office walls, could lead to a drastic reduction in IMBM social networking activities i.e. facebook, twitter etc.


News from the Cape Biotech forum

(March 2010)

In keeping with the tradition of maintaining a strong presence at South African conferences, the institute sent a sizeable delegation to the Cape Biotechnology forum at the Lord Charles hotel in Somerset West, Cape Town, from the 24th to the 26th of March, 2010. The conference was attended by Dr Nhlanhla Msomi, the acting CEO of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), who gave a plenary lecture entitled “TIA’s vision and perspective”. In his talk, he made a solid argument as to the need to merge South Africa’s four Biotechnology innovation centres (Capebiotech, Plant Bio, LIFELab and BioPAD) with the Innovation fund, Tshumisano trust and the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy (AMTS) to form TIA. Not only would the merger comply with the Technology Innovation Agency Act no. 26 of 2008 (…/53704_1.pdf), but it would allow for the formulation of relevant interdisciplinary research projects leading to market driven product development.

There was a vast array of presentations with speakers from provincial, national as well as international institutions being represented. Some of the interesting speakers included Prof Christoph Syldatk from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany whose plenary entitled “White Biotechnology and Biocatalysis: new routes to chemicals from biomass?” highlighted some of the technical and political challenges faced in the European industrial biotechnology. Prof Kelly Chibale’s talk entitled “Discovering and developing drugs in South Africa: challenges and opportunities” emphasised the current attempts at the exploitation of continental indigenous knowledge in drug discovery through the African Chem biobank project. Prof Stephanie Burton’s talk on “new natural antioxidants and in vivo demonstration of their protective benefits on health” summarised 8 years of work on the use of biocatalysis in the production, polymerisation and processing of antioxidants. She mentioned the potential exploitation of the antioxidants in the cosmetic and nutraceutical industries.

IMBM representation at the conference included four oral, five short oral with posters, and eight poster presentations. The high calibre of IMBM presentations was demonstrated by the selection of the best short oral with poster presentation from within the institute’s ranks. Dr Tracy Miering’s short oral with poster presentation which was chosen as the best presentation in its category, was entitled “Genomic and morphological characterisation of a novel Antarctic prophage”. Congratulations Tracy! You did us proud! The good news did not end there, as two members of the institute won an Exclusive books voucher and an ipod shuffle as part of the Roche sponsored “raffle” at the conference. However, the two members were unsuccessful in their attempts to trade in their prizes for a 454 Sequencer!


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