Calling on the next generation of SA medical researchers for the NGS Program

The Novartis and the University of Basel Next Generation Scientist (NGS) Program is now preparing to receive its 2020 intake of researchers. The program is aimed at driving the scientific and professional development of talented young research scientists from different countries across Africa, Latin America and Asia. Since its inception in 2011, a total of 183 students have participated in the program and 71 of them came from South African universities. The program has a 52 percent representation of female students.

It entails a three-month internship program at the Novartis research site in Basel, Switzerland where interns are guided by mentors on a jointly-agreed scientific or clinical research project, as well as take part in a leadership development program to harness their decision-making and communication skills.

Next Generation Scientist Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash
The NGS Program forms part of Novartis’ commitment to skills development and building medical research capabilities and scientific potential in South Africa

Beneficial research

‘Our purpose at Novartis is to improve and extend people’s lives by addressing some of society’s most challenging healthcare issues – and upskilling bright young research scientists is crucial in achieving this objective. The program allows the students as the next generation of medical researchers to augment their capabilities and collaborate on research that is beneficial to their local scientific and clinical communities,’ says Sibonile Dube, head of Communications and Public Affairs at Novartis South Africa. 

Areas of research for interns include cancer, neuroscience, cardio-metabolic, ophthalmology, immunology and dermatology, and respiratory. Leading experts in these fields, seminars, journal clubs, discussion forums and courses will support and drive their research.

The NGS Program forms part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Novartis, the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) and South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) in 2017, to invest in developing South African research capabilities, scientific cooperation and collaboration for capacity building and innovation.

More effective R&D

A cornerstone of the MoU is fostering more effective R&D, with the aim of making South Africa a research and innovation hub for Africa. The collaboration between Novartis, DST and SAMRC has helped build the necessary capacity through initiatives such as the NGS Program  (with representation from disadvantaged universities), healthcare workshops, clinical trials and grant-writing workshops for emerging researchers.

‘We take our position as one of the global leaders in Research & Development (R&D) employing 23 000 scientists worldwide and investing US$9 billion in R&D every year very seriously. We have committed to investing in scientific capability development to strengthening healthcare systems in middle/lower income countries,’ says Dube. ‘Upskilling South African talent to unleash the country’s medical research potential is a priority for us at Novartis, and we have no doubt that the South African researchers that are selected for this opportunity will help establish a strong South African medical research footprint.’

Interested and eligible research scientists can be on the lookout for the 2021 intake, which will be advertised online by September 2020.

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