Zulu for 'hope'
The word "iThemba" is Zulu for "hope," and so far the drug discovery at the company has been essentially aspirational rather than actual. Yet this particular place provides an entry point for exploring how the location of the scientific knowledge component of pharmaceuticals - rather than their production, licensing, or distribution - matters.
Pharmaceuticals have long travelled the globe, but pharmaceutical knowledge-making has become concentrated in just a few places. Pills themselves are highly mobile, and the need to increase the reach of essential medicines has become a priority for improving global health. Pharmaceutical knowledge-making, especially at its most fundamental stages, is not so mobile or dispersed.
Although Africa was an important site of pharmaceutical research in the colonial era, when research and therapy were more intimately connected, the complex infrastructures used in most pharmaceutical research and development today are highly geographically concentrated. iThemba represents an effort to change that.