Debswana spends 1.2 million to assist Univeristy of Botswana develop vaccines

Debswana has partnered with the University Of Botswana Department Of Biological Sciences to fund a research project to develop vaccines for three fatal and highly contagious diseases that are endemic and normally attack ruminants in Botswana – namely Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), Rabies and Pestes des Tetits Ruminants (PPR).

The project, funded by Debswana to the tune of P1.2 million for a three year period, is being conducted in partnership with the Botswana Vaccine Institute, the National Veterinary Lab and the Pitzer College in the United States. This funding exemplifies Debswana's dedication to uplifting the lives of Batswana, supporting government programmes and investing in the future of our country.

Currently, vaccines for Lumpy Skin Disease, Rabies and Pestes des Tetits are very expensive. The government only provides vaccines for Foot and Mouth disease as required by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Through the development of this technology by local researchers, it is hoped that in future Botswana farmers will be able to access and afford to buy these vaccines.

The Principal Investigator of the research project, Dr. Sununguko Wata Mpoloka, indicated that, "the reasons why we partnered with Pitzer College in the United States were because the University of Botswana had previously established a long term student exchange program with the college." The natural progression of the partnership was now to move to scientific exchanges. According to Dr. Mpoloka, Pitzer College had a proven cost effective technology that could easily be adopted to help develop vaccines for these diseases locally.

The project is entering a crucial phase of animal trials. Previous small scale laboratory tests have shown signs of potential success on animal models. Now for the next six months, the researchers plan to scale up these tests and challenge cattle in partnership with the Botswana Vaccine Institute.

According to the project co-investigator, Dr. Melvin Leteane, "the results obtained from these trials will inform us on the merits of our current strategy, both in terms of the safety and efficacy of the candidate vaccines. Also, this research project will be sustainable in the long term because of the inbuilt capacity building, skills and technology transfer in the partnership with Pitzer College".

Debswana's Corporate Citizenship Manager, Mr. Barulaganye Mogotsi, says that "the research project is not only commensurate with the vision of the University of Botswana but it also reaffirms Debswana's Corporate Social Investment policy which is aimed at creating a legacy of prosperity and sustainability by partnering with local communities."