Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
SU and PET Labs Pharmaceuticals forge strategic partnership for cyclotron facility
Author: Central Analytical Facilities
Published: 29/11/2023

Stellenbosch University (SU) is thrilled to announce a groundbreaking collaboration with PET Labs Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd to establish a cutting-edge cyclotron facility at its Tygerberg Campus in Cape Town, South Africa.

This visionary partnership heralds the installation of a 16 MeV medical cyclotron*, accompanied by comprehensive commercial and research radiopharmacy facilities.

The facility's primary mission is to provide the Western Cape and surrounding provinces with positron-emitting radiopharmaceuticals for vital medical diagnostic applications, as well as experimental radiopharmaceuticals for research purposes.

Made possible through the generous support of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant, this venture marks a pivotal milestone in the evolution of SU's nuclear medicine infrastructure. The University already boasts a state-of-the-art PET-CT imaging unit, dedicated to pioneering research in critical fields such as tuberculosis and cancer.

“The future cyclotron facility is expected to significantly advance SU's aspiration of becoming Africa's foremost research-intensive institution," says Dr Alex Doruyter, Director: NII PET-CT Unit in the Central Analytical Facilities of SU. “Moreover, this strategic initiative will play a crucial role in enhancing patient care within the public and private healthcare sectors. At the same time, training of students in the facility will address the growing need for skilled professionals in the field of nuclear medicine and radiopharmacy."

The two-year project, supported by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, is scheduled to commence in November 2023, and once completed promises to redefine** the landscape of healthcare and scientific research, firmly positioning Stellenbosch University as a leader in the field.

Prof Sibusiso Moyo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies, expressed her excitement: "This collaboration represents a momentous leap in our commitment to excellence in healthcare, research, and education. The cyclotron facility will empower us to make substantial contributions to society, and we are grateful to PET Labs Pharmaceuticals and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their unwavering support in this endeavour."

“This partnership is set to propel SU to new heights, fostering innovation, research and educational opportunities that will undoubtedly have a profound and lasting impact on Africa's healthcare landscape," adds Doruyter.

  • Stellenbosch University thanks the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their support.
  • For more information about Stellenbosch University and its collaboration with PET Labs Pharmaceuticals, please contact: Dr Alex Doruyter, Director: NII PET-CT Unit, Central Analytical Facilities, Stellenbosch University at or +27 (0) 21 834 4620.

 CAPTION: A Stellenbosch University radiopharmacist performs a radiolabelling using a synthesis module. 


*A medical cyclotron is used to accelerate charged particles which it then uses to bombard a target to make radioactive isotopes. These are then labelled to molecules of interest (e.g., glucose, amino acids, antibodies) in a radiopharmacy to create radiopharmaceuticals which can then be injected into a patient and imaged, using a PET-CT scanner. This specialised imaging technology offers a powerful, non-invasive means of studying physiological processes and disease – with both research and clinical applications.

​**A medical cyclotron would redefine the local landscape of healthcare and scientific research by providing new access to abundant quantities of commercial and research PET radiopharmaceuticals for clinical researchers in fields such as infectious disease, oncology, neurology, and cardiology. The facility would produce radiopharmaceuticals with known clinical applications to the benefit of patients and would also drive PET-CT research with experimental radiopharmaceuticals, once these have passed the necessary safety checks. The facility aims to capacitate radiopharmacy and radiochemistry students with the necessary skills and experience to contribute to the South African nuclear medicine industry which currently suffers from a severe skills shortage.