South Africa aims to be among the leading countries in the biotechnology industry, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said on Thursday.

"We want to make South Africa one of the top 10 nations in the world in terms of the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical (food that provides medical benefits), flavour, fragrance and biopesticide industries by 2018," she told the national biotechnology workshop in Pretoria, according to a copy of her speech sent to Sapa.

She said structures had been established across the country to enhance biotechnology research and innovation. All of them would soon move to the recently established Technology Innovation Agency.

The agency was expected to allow for an integrated approach for the promotion of innovation, including in biotechnology. It aimed to stimulate the development of technology-based products, services and enterprises and develop a technology base for the South African economy.

Pandor said the initiatives would help the country achieve several important objectives, such as the development of therapies for Aids, TB and other diseases.

"We all know that the heavy burden of disease in our region gives our search for biotechnology solutions added impetus. The development of research and innovation platforms and programmes will facilitate rapid drug discovery... which will, we hope, help us produce radical and affordable treatments and cures."

Another area of focus that had received specific attention was the exploitation of the country's indigenous knowledge to, amongst others, develop medicine from plants.

"South Africa is rich in biodiversity and the government has initiated programmes for the development of medicines based on traditional remedies."

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