Background History

The African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology, AiBST, ( was founded in 2002 by Professor Collen Masimirembwa. At the time, he was working for a leading global pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca (AZ) in Sweden as a Principal Scientist. From 2002 to 2004, AiBST operated as a virtual institute. Its activities were mainly the organisation of international courses on the sciences and technologies of drug discovery and developed where leading international scientists from academia and industry went to share their knowledge with their African counter parts. The first course was in Cape Town (South Africa) in 2002 and focused on ADMET for drug discovery. The second one was in Nairobi (Kenya) in 2003 focusing on Pharmacogenetics of Drug Metabolism. The courses generated tremendous interest among African scientists resulting in them forming the African Society for Drug Metabolism and Development (ASDMD) at the meeting in Cape Town and the African Pharmacogenomics and Biobanking Consortium at the meeting in Nairobi. To develop from theoretical awareness and interest, to practical experience and application, AiBST embarked on setting up a state-of-the-art biomedical laboratory in Harare, Zimbabwe. AstraZeneca made an enormous donation of equipment including HPLCs, thermocylers, and laboratory furniture and provided seed funds for the project. The AiBST biomedical laboratory was officially opened in 2005 by the Minster of Science and Technology Development (MSTD).


AiBST experienced rapid growth and recognition in Africa and internationally. In Africa, major institutions like the University of Cape Town (South Africa), University of Nairobi (Kenya), Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria) quickly realised the phenomenal potential AiBST had to establish pharmaceutical R&D in Africa and signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) for collaboration in biomedical education and research. In line with its continental agenda, AiBST established satellite laboratories, one at the University of Cape Town and another at the University of Nairobi. With a clear focus on postgraduate education to increase skilled manpower to champion biomedical research, AiBST was registered with the Ministry of Higher and tertiary Education in 2008. AiBST was selected as DMPK Centre of Excellence (CoE) by WHO-TDR in 2008 and an African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation CoE in DMPK and Toxicology in 2010. International institutions, including Karolinska Institute, Riken Institute and Stanford University also identified AiBST as a research collaborator of choice in conducting high quality research. Major funding organisations such as WHO-TDR, CDC (USA), EU,EDCTP, ISP and TWAS also came on board to support AiBST’s research and educational activities. Pharmaceutical companies such as Merck, Novartis and AstraZeneca have since initiated research and educational collaborations with AiBST, further affirming the rising star status of the institute.