Hope in Flow
Hope in Flow
This chapter explores a new direction that iThemba Pharmaceuticals had hoped to follow in order to fund its drug discovery work: building “green” pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in South Africa. This would involve implementing a process known as continuous flow chemistry, with the assistance of an iThemba scientific advisory board member who was a global leader in this area. The chapter argues that flow chemistry provides an opportunity to reflect on temporality and materiality, both on the microlevel of the chemical reactions that are carried out to synthesize molecules and on the macrolevel of providing a route for South Africa to become a site of pharmaceutical innovation. In South Africa, copying India’s model of building a pharmaceutical industry through large-scale manufacture of generic drugs was not feasible, and flow chemistry offered a way to see the lack of current highly polluting infrastructures as a competitive advantage for building green infrastructures of the future. In a manner analogous to cell phones leapfrogging landlines in Africa, the lack of pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity becomes a condition of possibility for skipping to the next paradigm in drug manufacture. The flow chemistry endeavor can be understood as an instantiation of hope for a post-apartheid post-modern.
Keywords: continuous flow chemistry, green infrastructure, pharmaceutical manufacture, temporality, leapfrogging, competitive advantage, innovation, Indian pharmaceutical industry, post-apartheid post-modern, hope
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