(NIC) comprises of three science councils (Mintek,
Medical research Council (MrC) and the Water research
Commission (WrC)), and three University nodes
(rhodes University, University of the Western Cape
and University of Johannesburg). The NIC supports the
national system of innovation and encourages the flow
of technology and information among people, enterprises
and institutions as key to the innovative process. The
NIC addresses issues of national importance including
the development of research platforms, encouraging and
promoting the formation of both local and international
collaborative networks, addressing human capital
development and bridging the innovation chasm.
The NIC develops various nanostructured materials and
use them as systems or tools for health (diagnostic and
therapeutics) and water (monitoring and treatment)
applications, which fit within the social cluster of the
national nanotechnology strategy. During the past year,
various nanostructured materials including nanofibers,
nanotubes, nanocomposites and nanoparticles were
produced and some were modelled in partnership
with the Centre of High Performance Computing
to understand their behaviour. Scaling up of gold
nanoparticles reached 40L and more than 100L of gold
nanoparticles have been shipped to Germany as part
of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development toxicology sponsorship programme. The
Water Unit has demonstrated the capacity to develop
and scale up bead filter systems for water treatment.
Whereas the membrane filter systems developed by
either modifying commercial membranes or those
produced in-house are further optimised. The Sensors
Unit filed a patent on novel fibres (luTTPc) and the
development of Measle Sensor prototype reached the
proof-of-concept stage. The Biolabels group developed
and tested some therapeutic systems at the pre-clinical
stage, and optimised lateral flow diagnostic prototypes.
In addressing human capital development in the NIC, a
total of 16 students (7 Hons, 7 MSc, 2 PhD) graduated
out of the 53 students registered (7 Honours, 19 MSc,
22 Phd) and five Post-doctoral fellows. several Mintek
researchers and students received special training in the
UK, UsA and india towards further skills and technology
development. The NIC produced during the past year
87 papers (including two book chapters) published in
isi journals. in addition, niC researchers and students
received nine international awards and the Biolabels
development group was a 2011 nsTF-BhP Billiton finalist
under the Category: Research for innovation by a team
or individual in a corporate organisation or institution.
The NIC hosted a large number of visitors from overseas
institutions, which includes Buffalo University (USA),
Manchester Metropolitan University (UK), University
of Massachusetts (UsA), oxford University (UK),
University of liverpool (UK), Universität duisburg-Essen
(Germany), and a delegation from Taiwan led by their
Deputy Minister of Science and Technology. In addition,
the centre hosted a high level delegation from the K.s.
rangasamy College of Technologies (KsrCT) nano
Centre in india with whom an MoU was signed for joint
research on nanominerals
Metal-based Therapies for Cancer, HIV and
The Biomed group has continued to expand research
activities to other metal centers in addition to gold.
Since its inception in 2002, Biomed has grown from a
programme focused on gold-based therapies for cancer
to a diverse research team investigating metal-based
therapies for cancer and hiv.
In total, more than 100 compounds were chemically
synthesised and tested for biological activity in the past
year. of these tested compounds, eight potential hiv-1
inhibitors were identified and have undergone in-depth
analysis; with one compound demonstrating useful
activity against hiv-1 integrase. Based on these findings,
the design of second generation compounds has been
initiated and will be pursued over the next financial year.
Research aimed at cancer drug discovery within the
Biomed group has focused on the modification of a
promising lead inhibitor. This compound successfully
reached an advanced preclinical stage of investigation
through partnership with the National Cancer Institute
in the United States but fell short of the exacting
requirements needed to transverse further through
the drug development pipeline. Over the past year,
efforts were aimed at overcoming the limitations of the
compound, with more work required to ensure suitability
of the compound. To expedite the entire in-house drug
discovery process, the Biomed group has constructed a
new synthesis facility. Furthermore, a large commercial
compound library was purchased to complement the
automated robotic system previously acquired. Already,
two biological assays have been adapted to the robotic
platform, through which the compound library will be
research, development and technology
mintek annual report 2012
screened in a semi-high throughput manner.
The r&d activities of the Physical Metallurgy Group are
classed into three broad categories, namely, the Ferrous
and Base Metals Network (FMDN) of the Department
of Science and Technology's Advanced Metals Initiative
Programme (DST-AMI), technology assistance to the
foundry industry under the DST's Technology Assistance
Programme (DST-TAP) and general technology
assistance to the metals-related industries carried out
under the Metals Technology Centre (MTC).
Under the AMI-FMDN programme, remarkable progress
was made under the Metal Dusting and Lightweight
steels sub-programmes during the past financial year.
Key industry collaborators were brought into the
programme such that the on-going research is optimally
aligned with the pertinent materials-related challenges
in both the petrochemical and transportation industries.
This collaborative alignment with industry has enabled
the formulation of relevant r&d projects with higher
Education Institutions (HEIs), notably, the University
of the Witwatersrand, the University of Pretoria,
vaal University of Technology and the University of
The Biomed research team investigates metalbased
therapies for cancer, HIV and malaria.
A scientist busy in the Mintek catalysis laboratory.
The Nanotechnology Innovation Centre (NIC)
boasts a new centrifuge machine.
A Biomed scientist working in the Biosafety Level