Innovation through nanotechnology


Nanotechnology Innovation Centre

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Therapeutics Platform

This platform focuses on research and development of functionalised metal nanoparticle systems for therapeutics and targeted drug delivery.

Systems Development:  

The Biolabels unit has developed a range of metal nanoparticles for biological and pharmaceutical applications (eg. gold, silver, etc.).  These nanoparticles are produced by the Unit as semi-commercial products ranging from 2 nm to 100 nm in size.  Nanomaterials produced by the Unit are classified as colloids, monolayer protected clusters (MPCs) and bioconjugate systems.


These are produced as important building blocks for nanotechnological applications.

Monolayer Protected Clusters (MPCs):

MPCs are produced specifically to address advanced application by attaching specific functionalized ligands of choice on the nanoparticle core.  Biocompatible functional MPCs containing various functional groups such as carboxyl, amine, azide, biotin, nitrilotriacetic adid (NTA) etc. are produced.


Bioconjugates are produced by attaching specific biomolecular functionality or biomarkers (proteins, sugars, peptides, enzymes, antibodies, etc.) on the surface of MPCs.  They are engineered addressing key issues, such as stability, biocompatibility etc.  The nanobioconjugate systems are utilized in various diagnostic and therapeutic applications.  Custom conjugation is also offered.

In vivo Imaging

Development of nano-technology-based labeling reagents to accurately diagnose, manage and treat diseases.


The labeling reagents developed in the Unit are used by our collaborators for research in:

• Diabetes diagnostics


The Unit has world class equipment for synthesis, characterisation and fabrication of nanomaterials and nano-enabled devices.

Nanosight LM-20

Plate reader and washer

Zeta Sizer


•To become a leading innovator in the field of nanomedicine.

•To develop expertise in the field of nanomedicine or nano-technology in South Africa.


•To develop functionalized metal    nanoparticles (or tools) for in- vivo imaging and therapeutic applications.

•To design and develop nanotechnology - based point-of-care (POC) diagnostics

Research Focus Area  

The Biolabels Development Unit focuses on developing nanomaterials-based systems for applications in Therapeutics and Diagnostics.

Diagnostics Platform

The diagnostic platform focuses on the design and development of rapid diagnostic tests for human and animal diseases and labeling reagents for in vivo imaging.

Optical Diagnostics:

•  The Unit develops a variety of lateral flow devices for the detection of human as well as animal diseases that plague the African continent and beyond.

•  The lateral flow tests focus on the detection of antibodies/antigens in the test sample (sera, blood, saliva, urine) using biomarker functionalized gold nanoparticles.

Therapeutics Applications

The nano-bioconjugate systems developed in the therapeutics platform are used for applications in:

•  HIV Research

•  Cancer Research    

•  Obesity Research    

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Nanotechnology for Health

Africa is burdened with diseases and some of the major disease concerns include HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, diabetes and cancer.  Nanomedicine, the medical application of nanotechnology in medicine, promises to deliver more accurate disease diagnostics, more effective drug delivery systems and less invasive clinical procedures.