Annual Report


The South African Brain Research Institute
Annual Report for 2003/2004

  • SABRI’s pioneering work on substance abuse reaches many more underprivileged South Africans
  • SABRI’s International collaborations continue and expand
  • SABRI’s work with nitrous oxide forms the basis of a project funded by the French Government’s CNRS
  • SABRI’s role in medical education expands

South African Brain Research Institute

Incorporated association not for gain
Reg No 82/000063/08
Fund Raising No. 011-356 NPO
Wedge Gardens
Cnr Modderfontein and Wordsworth Roads
Edenvale 1610
Gauteng , South Africa
P O Box 1315
Highlands North 2037
South Africa
Telephone (011) 786-2912/13
Fax (011) 786-1766 E-mail: mag@

SABRI predicted in its annual report written soon after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York that these attacks would have serious repercussions for countries world-wide. And that South Africa would be no exception. World-wide economies have suffered and stock-exchanges have plummeted. Sub-Saharan Africa has been hit not only by the economic downturn in the major economies directly effecting company profits, but also by the disastrous impact of the HIV-Aids pandemic. As a result there has been almost no money available to SABRI from local funding. Most South African Companies have ploughed their budgets directly into HIV-Aids research forgetting the importance of brain research. They do not seem to realise the importance of treatments for substance abuse and particularly alcoholism, which has been the thrust of SABRI for many years now. This is unfortunate because alcoholism and substance abuse are major causal factors in the transmission of HIV-Aids. As a result, SABRI’s research into human brain function is being severely hampered by the lack of local funding to keep the Institute afloat. This is aggravated by a severe shortage of funding for treatment and health-related research. Neuroscience, which when examined superficially is seen as highly esoteric, seems to have been hit the hardest by these shortages and reallocations of funding. Despite this, SABRI workers can be proud of their contribution to keeping our country at the forefront of international brain science. Although affirmative action is an essential part of South Africa ’s future, it has had the unfortunate effect of many firms focusing their company’s programmes’ on shorter-term projects which have high levels of visibility particularly at grass roots levels. To make matters worse, many of these companies’ social responsibility explicitly exclude medical research. Even the National Lottery turned down our application on the basis that they do not support medical research. This is extremely worrying and places severe restriction on SABRI’s future efforts. Although the strengthening Rand has assisted in small measure to offset the high cost of scientific equipment and supplies, it has had a negative effect on the sums of money sourced from overseas donors. Nevertheless, it is a tribute to our donors that have lent their steadfast support to SABRI, that our vital work still continues. On behalf of SABRI I express my sincere gratitude to our distinguished sponsors, old and new, who contribute through their donations, to the continuance of our important scien­tific and educational work.


Despite funding obstacles SABRI’s seminal scientific work has given rise to two projects overseas in Europe and North America .

  1. Professor Bernard Roques, a laureate of the Grand Prize by the French Medical Research Foundation (for 2001), has obtained funding from He and his colleagues are currently working on a project funded by the CNRS (Centre Nationale de le Reserche Scientifique) and Air Liquide. This project is based on SABRI’s pioneering research on molecular brain mechanisms underlying pain and substance abuse. This project began in May 2001. The results of these experiments in animal models seem to have confirmed SABRI’s earlier findings in human subjects. We await the French developments with much interest.
  2. Professor George Rebec, Head of the Neural Science Program at Indiana University has committed considerable time to plan further work in collaboration with SABRI. One grant proposal is almost complete and should be submitted next year and another is in the pipeline. As reported previously he was able to confirm in an animal model the anti-craving effects of psychotropic analgesic nitrous oxide (PAN) on alcoholic craving, discovered at SABRI in humans (in the 1980’s). Professor Rebec has been working on an animal model. A collaborative project has been underway, since January 1998, between Professor Rebec’s group and SABRI. This group recently confirmed in rats the strong anti craving properties of PAN first demonstrated in man by SABRI in the 1980’s.
  3. A second edition of a book on PAN sedation was published in 2003 ( Clark , M & Brunick, A. Handbook of Nitrous oxide and oxygen sedation, Mosby, St Louis ). The first edition, published in 1999, was a best seller and is used a a standard text on the subject in the U.S.A. and elsewhere in the world. The first edition had numerous references on the work that has been undertaken by SABRI investigators over the years. The executive Director of SABRI was asked to assist in the preparation of the new edition. SABRI is proud to be associated with the new edition.


There have been a number of important and exciting developments on the local front.

-As our donors are aware the PAN therapy pioneered and researched by SABRI has been officially accepted since January 1992 and listed by SAMA (S.A. Medical Association) and the medi­cal aid movement (BHF) as a recognised standard treatment for addictive withdrawal states (tariff codes 0203/0204). The gas therapy has been used successfully in more than 50,000 patients world-wide. Since 1990 when it was introduced to Finland , it has been used in other countries including Germany and U.S.A.

When PAN is used the majority of patients can be treated on an out-patient basis. It has another advantage, patients that do not respond within a few minutes of the treatment, a small minority, require intensive in-patient therapy. Thus the therapy is a unique screening test which divides the vast majority that respond rapidly and positively from those requiring more intensive therapy. Thus, the majority of patients receiving it do not need to be absent from work and can continue contributing to the economy, while receiving out-patient treatment. On the other hand, the small minority that do not respond can be hospitalised and receive more intensive therapy. For these reasons the PAN therapy is much more economical than the patented expensive and addictive sedative drug therapies, as well as eliminating costly and often unnecessary bed occupations, saving public health services millions of Rands .

Although the PAN therapy is being used in a number of centres in South Africa , there has been particular interest in the Eastern Cape .

  1. SANCA Port Elizabeth has been successfully using the PAN therapy for almost 15 years. Under the outstanding leadership of Ms Heidi Pryer, appointed as the Director of PE SANCA 2 years ago, this centre has become a leading force for the treatment and prevention of substance abuse in the Eastern Cape . As a result, SABRI and SANCA PE are working on collaborative research projects. In order to facilitate this research a human ethics committee has been established to ensure that all research is carried out with the highest ethical standards. Since Ms Pryer’s appointment, the Executive Director of SABRI has visited PE on 3 occasions. On two of these visits he had the honour to be keynote speaker at SANCA PE Societies Annual General meetings. SANCA PE are already planning to start a PAN treatment centre in Uitenhage.
  2. SANCA East London, largely as a result of the success at Port Elizabeth , opened a treatment centre using the PAN therapy in October 2003 in their newly refurbished headquarters in East London . The executive travelled to East London and trained further nursing sisters to use PAN for substance abuse withdrawal states and craving. One of these nurses will run the facility in East London . Collaborative research between SABRI and East London is also planned.

SABRI’s other research work continues, including investigations on the underlying mechanisms of addiction and craving, the hyperalgesic opioid system (which could lead to almost ideal pain killing drugs, without the side effects of morphine). The new biological principle of gaseous neurotransmission, which may be at the crux of the most basic of life’s functions i.e. respiration, continues to broaden man’s understanding of the wonders of life. The principle of gaseous neurotransmission, a method by which chemical messages are passed from nerve to nerve is probably the most important scientific discovery by SABRI investigators. This, because discovering a new biological principle is regarded by most scientist as one of the ‘Holy Grails’ of science. This breakthrough was confirmed in numerous prestigious scientific journals including Nature and Science.


For many years now, SABRI has been training health professionals in the use of the PAN therapy. At first only at the Rand Aid Alcoholic Facility near Johannesburg , where the therapy was discovered and pioneered. However, more recently the demand has been increasing and the Executive Director has been travelling throughout South Africa training nurses and doctors in the technique. Many of these training courses have been recognised for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points, which enables health professionals to retain their registration with the Health Professionals Council. This vital function of SABRI is likely to expand as more and more health professionals begin to utilise the therapy. Thus SABRI is gaining increasing recognition as a training resource, both in South Africa and abroad. SABRI has trained more than 100 health professionals.


It is with sadness that we report the death of a SABRI founding Director, Mrs R. Deats. Mrs Deats had been on the SABRI’s Board since its founding, 21 years ago. Her interest, support and valued counsel will be sorely missed. The Board and staff of SABRI wish her family sin­cere condolences.


Rand Aid Association’s, assistance has been invaluable, particularly through Mr Leon Gavhalas, the director. Numerous other individuals have provided assistance and valuable exper­tise, including Ms Heidi Pryer and Mrs Nadine Harker from SANCA PE . For want of space many others who have provided invaluable assistance are unfortunately not named. Mr Eddie Maduna who has acted with distinction in many roles at SABRI and more particularly as Administrative Head must be mentioned. Of course, without the generous and contin­ued support of our prestigious corporate and individual sponsors, our vital work would not have been possible. We thank everyone who has assisted.

Dr Mark A Gillman
Executive Director


1. Anglo American and De Beers Chairman’s Fund
2. First National Bank of SA Ltd
3. JCI Ltd
4. Standard Bank Investment Co Ltd
5. Corporation Ltd
6. Allied Building Society
7. Afrox Ltd
8. Sage Holdings Ltd
9. Barlow Rand Ltd
10. Liberty Life Group Community Fund
11. Watters Stationery (Pty) Ltd
12. Booth Bequest
13. Anglovaal Ltd
14. Times Media Ltd
15. MSD (Pty) Ltd
16. Lifegro Assurance Ltd
17. The Premier Group Charitable Community Trust
18. Suncrush Ltd
19. Everite Ltd
20. Blue Circle Ltd
21. Elcentre Corporation Ltd
22. IGI Ltd
23. Rank Xerox Ltd
24. Clicks Stores
25. Wilson-Rowntree (Pty) Ltd
26. Investec Bank Ltd
27. Wooltru Ltd
28. Nashua Vaal Ltd
29. Algorax Ltd
30. Max Paiken Printers
31. Magnum Airlines Ltd
32. Federale Volksbeleggings Ltd
33. Ingersoll-Rand Co SA (Pty) Ltd
34. E.R. Bernard & Associates
35. The Robert Niven Trust
36. Romens Holdings Ltd
37. Aroma Liquor Holdings Ltd
38. AECI Ltd
39. M & S Spitz Footwear Holdings Ltd
40. The Foschini Group Ltd
41. Samancor Ltd
42. Industrial Development Corporation of SA
43. S.A. Medical Research Council
44. PFV Group Management Services (Pty) Ltd
45. Mathieson + Ashley Holdings Ltd
46. The Lion Matches Co. Ltd
47. Langerberg Foods Ltd
48. Pick & Pay Stores Ltd
49. National Beverage Service (Pty) Ltd
50. National Discount House of SA Ltd
51. Wyeth-Ayerst (Pty) Ltd
52. The Spar Guild of SA
53. Associated Diesel Co. (Pty) Ltd
54. The Good Year Tyre & Rubber Co
55. The Mannie Auctioneering
56. Malbak Ltd
57. JHI Res P Ltd Eskel Jawitz
58. Total SA
59. Datacraft
60. Nicholas Yale cc
61. Mercantile & General Reinsurance Co. of SA
62. M Pelkowitz
63. J D Group Ltd .
64. Access Security
65. Carlton Paper of SA
66. Upjohn (Pty) Ltd
67. D P I Plastic (Pty) Ltd
68. Momentum Life Assurers Ltd
69. S M Paiker
70. Union Mosaic Tiles (Pty) Ltd
71. Truworths
72. Metro Group Ltd
73. Walter A Chipkin (Pty) Ltd
74. Saficon Investment Ltd
75. Afrolympic Travels (Pty) Ltd
76. Medsed
77. Market Toyota
78. Nashua Ltd
79. Rio Tinto Management Services
80. Vinuchi (Pty) Ltd
81. Sandra Michele Lampert
82. Mobil SA Energy Co Ltd
83. Ellies Electronics
84. Sentrachem Ltd
85. Fred C Smollan (Pty) Ltd
86. Calvert Removals (Pty) Ltd
87. ATC (Pty) Ltd
88. Perm
89. Sanlam
90. Caltex Oil (SA) (Pty) Ltd
91. Bankorp Ltd
92. Greenfield Manufacturing Co (Pty) Ltd
93. Johnson Matthey (Pty) Ltd
94. OK Bazaars Ltd
95. Fedlife Assurance Ltd
96. Top Life
97. L. Suzman Distributors (Pty) Ltd
98. NBS Holdings Ltd
99. Norwich Life SA Ltd
100. Unitrans Ltd
101. Bushfeld Flowers
102. Emmanuels Personnel
103. Safmarine
104. SA Press Cutting Agency
105. T & N Holdings Ltd
106. The Bidvest Group Ltd
107. Group Five LTD
108. The R B Hagart Trust
109. Nedcor Ltd
110. Kempston Truch Hire Ltd
111. Foundation for Research Development
112. Lundbeck South Africa (Pty) Ltd
113. Scaw Metals Ltd
114. Trident Steel (Pty) Ltd
115. Sappi Ltd
116. African Life Assurance Co Ltd
117. (Metboard) The Stella & Paul Loewenstein Trust
118. Rheem South Africa
119. Guardian National Insurance Co Ltd
120. African Sales Co (Pty) Ltd
121. Irvin & Johnson Ltd
122. Werkmans Attorneys
123. JH Isaacs Group Ltd
124. Hans Merensky Foundation
125. Anglo-Alpha Ltd
126. Slavepak Holdings (Pty) Ltd
127. SAB
128. Malcolm & Gladys Cameron Foundation
129. M.I.B. Group (Pty) Ltd
130. Boardman Bros (Pty) Ltd
131. Da Gama Textile Ltd
132. Sandoz Products (Pty) Ltd
133. Pfizer Products (Pty) Ltd
134. Eli Lilly (SA) (Pty) Ltd
135. Nestle (SA) (Pty) Ltd
136. Decor Group
137. Ernest Joseph & Co (Pty) Ltd
138. Barbizon Tea and Coffee Ltd
139. Gencor Develpoment Trust
140. UU Net Internet Africa
141. The PG Foundation
142. IBM South Africa
143. Chemical Services Ltd
144. The Wartenweiler Trust
145. Engen Petroleum Limited
146. The E Bellairs Charitable Trust
147. Rhone-Poulenc Rorer S.A. (Pty) Ltd
148. SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceutical (Pty) Ltd.
149. The Carl & Emily Fuchs Foundation
150. Rex Trueform Clothing Co Ltd
151. Compu-Clearing (Pty) Ltd
152. Peregrine Structuring (Pty) Ltd
153. Billiton Development Trust
154. Metropolis Transactive (Pty) Ltd
155. Sasol S.A. Ltd
156. Edward L. Bateman Ltd
157. Caxton Publishers & Printers Ltd
158. Jeffares & Green Incorporated