This state-of-the-art eight story, 4,000 sq. m. (40,000 sq. ft.) building, which cost an estimated US$40 million to construct, can hold six to nine large scientific research groups working in both standard laboratories and specialised spaces, called biosafety level 3 (BSL3) facilities, that allow scientists to safely handle dangerous pathogens like TB. The building houses 600 sq. m. (6,000 sq. ft.) of BSL3 space, including small labs adjacent to each scientist’s research area and the entire 7th floor. Part of the building is also dedicated to specialised labs that include equipment and space to work in K-RITH’s core research areas: microbiology, immunology, pharmacology, high-throughput biology, and clinical protocol development.
A large glass atrium acts as a hub for the campus, physically connecting K-RITH, the medical school, and the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute buildings. Inside the K-RITH building, a meeting space will be available that can accommodate large events or be divided into smaller conference rooms. The Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and the South African biotechnology organization LifeLab also have office space in the building.
The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) has been erected in a prime location on the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine campus in Durban and provides an important physical connection between the medical school and our research colleagues on the campus of the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, including the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute, the Centre for the AIDS programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), and the HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP).
The Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine is situated adjacent to King Edward VII Hospital, a major referral hospital for KwaZulu-Natal and one of the largest hospitals in all of Africa. It is also a short drive from several other major facilities: Albert Luthuli Hospital, a tertiary care centre that is one of the most modern hospitals in all of Africa, and King George V Hospital, a specialised tuberculosis referral centre where patients with drug-resistant forms of TB are hospitalised. K-RITH also has collaborations with several private hospitals in the area which serve a low-income population with high rates of TB and HIV.
The prevalence of HIV in South Africa is among the highest worldwide, with 5.7 million HIV cases. The KwaZulu-Natal Province, where K-RITH is located, has an HIV rate of approximately 15 percent. Tuberculosis (TB) has taken advantage of the compromised immune systems of those infected with HIV and its rate has soared in South Africa. In KwaZulu-Natal the TB incidence rate is 295 cases per 100,000 and reaches as high as 1,100 per 100,000 in certain areas. The combination of a high burden of TB and HIV and advanced laboratory facilities makes K-RITH an important place for scientific discovery and translation of research into diagnostics and treatments to fight these global killers.