TB facility helps bring down crime

One of Africa's top TB facilities, TASK Applied Science is now based in Parow.
A run-down building in Parow has undergone a refurbishment and now houses one of Africa’s top TB research facilities, TASK Applied Science.

Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District (VRCID) spokeswoman Jessica Pitman said the property just off Voortrekker Road in Smith Street had caused its share of headaches in the past.

Derek Bock, the VRCID chief operations officer, said the clinical research organisation added to a growth of medical hub in Bellville and Parow.

According to TASK’s Marthalize van der Westhuizen, the building has a Bio-Safety Level 3 laboratory (one of the newest in Africa); training and lecture facilities; administration offices and a cafeteria, which will soon be accessible to the public.

The organisation was founded in 2005 by Professor Andreas Diacon to accelerate the development and evaluation of novel anti-tuberculosis drugs.

TASK collaborates with international NGOs, government-funded consortia, academic centres and pharmaceutical companies on various drug-development projects.

Ms Van der Westhuizen said the necessity for quality TB research continues to be a top medical priority in South Africa, with 22 000 TB-related deaths, and an additional 56 000 TB and HIV deaths recorded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2017.

Ms Van der Westhuizen said TASK had invested “millions” into the building, although she didn’t say exactly how much.

“The lab is funded by the Bill Gates Foundation, so they receive grants in dollars,” she said.

Ms Pitman said the criminals had used Smith Street as a quick escape route “from Voortrekker Road through the empty block into King Edward Street”, but TASK’s presence was helping to clean up the area.

“Due to TAKS’s relationship with the City facilities around them, as well as having a very close relationship with the city health clinic next to them (where their patients are recruited), they have developed a sense of community that wasn’t there before,” she said.