Healthcare News South Africa

Nzimande unveils inaugural nuclear medicine research facility in Pretoria

Pretoria has inaugurated the Nuclear Medicine Research Infrastructure (NuMeRI), the first facility of its kind in Africa. It includes a cyclotron for isotope production in radiation therapy.
Source: Department of Science and Innovation.
Source: Department of Science and Innovation.

The NuMeRI will provide consolidated expertise in nuclear technologies in medicine and biosciences, creating significant research, development and innovation capacity in South Africa and will assist in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

Situated next to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, NuMeRI is set to advance drug development and clinical research and provide cutting-edge diagnostics and treatment in relation to cancer, tuberculosis (TB) and other major diseases that are burdening public health.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Blade Nzimande, who opened the facility, told guests the world-class facility is a product of South Africa’s long-standing co-operation with the European Union (EU) that dates back to 2012.

Under this agreement, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) collaborated with the EU to develop a South African first Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR) for the country.

“The mobilisation of innovation and technology to address the disease burden and the need to provide quality health care to all South Africans is a key priority of my department’s Decadal Plan on Science, Technology, and Innovation,” said the minister, adding that the NuMeRI was an important pillar in this effort.

The NuMeRI is a one-stop-shop medical imaging facility dedicated to drug development and imaging-based clinical research. It is open to all researchers who will benefit from imaging in their product development.

Nuclear medicine uses small amounts of radioactive material combined with a carrier molecule in the body to see how organs or tissue are functioning to diagnose diseases more easily. It then selectively targets and treats the diseased area in the body with molecular precision, sparing healthy adjacent cells.

“It will assist in taking bio-innovations further down the value chain from radiolabelling to preclinical testing. It will also contribute to good manufacturing practices and clinical trials,” he explained.

In addition, the NuMeRI’s capabilities will contribute to the precision-medicine approach and targeted personalised therapies being developed in South Africa.


To ensure efficient governance and management, the two partners, the University of Pretoria (UP) and Steve Biko Academic Hospital, agreed to the establishment of a NuMeRI not-for-profit company (NPC).

The UP Health Faculty, as well as iThemba Labs and the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa), are major partners in this initiative, which has also received praise from the global community.

The first phase of NuMeRI, established and hosted at Necsa for three years, was made possible by an investment of close to R150m between 2016 and 2019. The second phase of implementation at Steve Biko Academic Hospital started in the 2020/21 financial year with an investment of approximately R390m since 2020 by the DSI.

Meanwhile, the UP also received an additional R85m for the NuMeRI building.

Human resource

According to Nzimande, it is anticipated that this infrastructure will triple the current clinical PhDs and increase six-fold basic science PhDs.

To date, 20 masters and 15 PhD students have completed their studies with a further 17 master’s degrees and 22 PhD students finishing their studies.

Meanwhile, the NuMeRI’s research activities advance the objectives and priorities of the National Department of Health, strengthening the nuclear-medicine capacity in South Africa and beyond its borders in Africa.

It also enhances South African research in medicinal chemistry, expediting the development of drugs to address national priority diseases such as cancer and TB, enabling new pharmaceuticals to reach the market sooner, and giving South African pharmaceutical development a competitive edge with global equivalents.

The research will be mainly in oncology and will cover other communicable and non-communicable diseases.

“The opening of this facility represents yet another important milestone in the development of scientific infrastructure for our country and this is embodied in the fact that the NuMeRI is the first of its kind on the African continent.”

Source: is a South African government news service, published by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS). (formerly BuaNews) was established to provide quick and easy access to articles and feature stories aimed at keeping the public informed about the implementation of government mandates.

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