The second annual Biosafey SA symposium was held in Pretoria at the beautiful Diep in die Berg conference centre on 14 March. This year’s theme was sustainable biotech innovation with a special focus on gene editing. Amongst the symposium attendees were Government representatives of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) as well as the Department of Science and Technology (DST).   

Michael Pepper from the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Health Sciences kick-started the symposium with a thought-provoking presentation addressing the ethical, legal and social implications of human genetics and genomics. In conjunction with the special focus topic of gene editing, FABI-member Dr Victoria Maloney then spoke to some of the more recent advances in CRISPR-Cas technology as well as how members of FABI are taking advantage of this technology to address challenges currently faced in the South African forest and agricultural industries. This session was concluded with a discussion on the intellectual property rights surrounding the genome editing technology and what all of it might mean for regulation in SA and for biotech innovation.  A representative from Corteva Agriscience (a merger between Du Pont and PANNAR) then discussed joint industry – research institution projects focused on gene editing in collaboration with CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center). While the remaining sessions shifted gears from the focus on genome editing, the underlying theme of sustainable biotech development in SA was prevalent in all talks with focus sessions on topics from effective communication of science, active biotech initiatives, to CSIR-administered platforms to monitoring the safety of current GMOs in SA.  For a more detailed summary of the symposium, mark your calendars for a special MMM seminar to be in given by Dr Nicky Creux and Dr Victoria Maloney on 27 May.