Biopharming Research Unit
The Biopharming Research Unit - affectionately known to its members as 'The Bru' - was accredited by the Senate Executive Committee at the University of Cape Town in September 2013. The new Unit is based in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, and comprises the research groups led by Professor Ed Rybicki, who is the Director.
The BRU has as its central mission the expression of pharmaceutically relevant recombinant proteins in plants and insect cells, and a side mission in engineering virus resistance in maize and other crops. Members of the Unit are inventors on possibly the largest portfolio of patents at UCT, and the largest molecular biotechnology portfolio in South Africa.
Principal projects right now are the production of vaccine candidates for HPV, ASHV and Emerging Infectious Diseases, as well as variety of diagnostics and vaccines for the One Health Initiative.
Funding: The group was supported by two consecutive NRF Innovation Fund awards for Human papillomavirus vaccine development, as well as three consecutive SA AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI) grants for HIV vaccines. We have also been funded by the University of Cape Town, the Poliomyelitis Research Foundation (PRF), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), the Department of Trade and Industry - Technology And Human Resources For Industry Programme (DTI-THRIP), Pannar Seed Ltd, the European Commission Frameworks 6 and 7 (FP6 and FP7), and Medicago Inc (Canada).
Students: The group has an impressive record in training postgraduate students: over 52 Honours projects, 22 MSc and 24 PhD graduates have been produced over 30 years, with about a third of these specifically trained since 1997 in projects related to biopharming.
Publications: The group has published some 65 papers since 2013 on projects related to biopharming, including several world-leading breakthroughs such as the first proof of efficacy of a plant-produced papillomavirus vaccine.