DIPLOMICS is an initiative of the Department of Sciences and Technology (DST) with the vision of helping to make South Africa a leading player in ‘omics’ based translational research and bio-economic development. It is part of the Department’s long-term SARIR (South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap) program.
Through DIPLOMICS, the DST aims to convert the wealth contained in (South) Africa’s biological systems (human, plant, animal, other) into local value through stimulating and enabling high performance omics-based innovation. DIPLOMICS aims to achieve this by building a high-quality, output-driven, customer-centric, cost-effective research infrastructure that maximizes returns gained from investments into omics capacity in South Africa.
In this context, infrastructure is more than the amalgamation of physical assets: it is the sum of all the corresponding resources (including, in particular, human), capabilities and productivities realised with investments made in ‘omics’ infrastructure.
DIPLOMICS goals are to:
- Coordinate system activities through alignment and cooperation of dedicated omics facilities and initiatives
- Enhance system productivity through standardization of omics activities and the implementation of coherent output performance measures
- Increase access to and utilization of omics-based infrastructure through training and educational efforts, with a particular emphasis on young black female individuals
- Leverage DST investment (in financial terms) through attraction of additional funding, partnering with other stakeholders (public, private, Africa and international) and support of national priority projects (eg Precision Medicine)
- Develop a unique but world-class South African omics brand that encourages and drives local value creation with a global outlook
DIPLOMICS is envisaged to become a significant contributor to realizing the DST’s bio-economy strategy and other relevant government strategy frameworks.
STATUS (September 2017)
DIPLOMICS has officially launched in April 2017, following a 2-year preparation phase where it emerged as one of the priority areas from the DST’s SARIR program.
The program is incubated at the Centre for Proteomic & Genomic Research (CPGR) for an (initial) 3-year pilot phase. The envisaged life-cycle of DIPLOMICS is (at least) 10 years, with a view to effectively cater to the long implementation and impact horizons of large-scale life science infrastructure investments. The program reports to the DST and is aided by a Steering Committee (composition to be confirmed) as well as supported by a diversity of working groups (WGs).
The pilot aims at building the foundation for longer-term and larger-scale infrastructure creation, among others by virtue of mapping the status quo of omics infrastructure in South African and galvanising the system into a coherent framework that allows more efficient utilisation of existing and deployment of new infrastructure.
Among others, the program envisages to achieve this by way of aligning a diversity of stakeholders, in particular omics facilities, users, and funders. To facilitate this process, DIPLOMICS is creating an online market place for current and new omics facilities, to showcase what capacity already exists, to increase user access, and to enhance productivity of the system as a whole. Among others, these aims will be supported by an emphasis on high quality service delivery; and, they will be powered by community-lead working groups (WGs).
In addition to having technology-centric WGs, DIPLOMICS endeavours to strengthen the omics system by (i) facilitating user engagement and measuring user satisfaction; (ii) supporting, stimulating and driving strategic initiatives that utilize and/or enhance omics infrastructure; (iii) developing a framework for socio-economic impact investment, among others in support of attracting more support, in-kind and in-cash, from local and international institutions.
DIPLOMICS is a network-based organization that brings together disparate omics facilities in a virtual manner, to maximize the value obtained through the creation of ‘omics’ capacity across South Africa. Existing and new omics facilities can become members of DIPLOMICS in accordance with a 3-tier membership system.
Tier-1 facilities, who make up the main DIPLOMICS members, may work independently or in collaboration with other facilities to render services, support and/or training to current and new customers. The services and offerings provided by tier-1 facilities form the basis of DIPLOMICS. Jointly, they will form an online ‘market place’ and represent the majority of applications available to users in South Africa, highlighting ongoing initiatives and providing intellectual support for basic research, pre-clinical and clinical research, as well as applied research available for commercialization.
Tier-1 facilities will benefit from a combined online marketing opportunity, coordinated maintenance and service schedules, sharing of instrumentation and expertise as well funding, as applicable.
Users will benefit due to better knowledge of and access to ‘omics’ capacity through standardized assay descriptions and training opportunities. Users will also benefit from an enhanced level of project productivity through DIPLOMICS facilitated support for project design, project execution and project analysis.
Omics facilities that don’t render services other than offering student training fall into a tier-2 category. Non-South African facilities with interest in establishing a relationship with DIPLOMICS fall into a tier-3 category.
DIPLOMICS will seek relationships with complementary facilities, programs or initiatives, such as bio-repositories, data-banks and animal facilities, which play an important role in the bigger ecosystem, to support the services rendered and to enhance capacity utilization.
A dedicated DIPLOMICS website will be launched by the end of October 2017.
For more information, contact Dr Judith Hornby.