The establishment of a cell therapy programme in South Africa has the potential to contribute to the alleviation of the country’s high disease burden and also to contribute to economic growth. South Africa has various positive attributes that favour the establishment of such a high-profile venture; however, there are also significant obstacles which need to be overcome. We discuss the positive and negative features of the current health biotechnology sector. The positive factors include a strong market pull and a highly innovative scientific and medical community,
while the most problematic features include the lack of human resources and education and limited funding. The South African Government has undertaken to strengthen the biotechnology sector in general, but a focus on cell therapy is lacking. The next important step would be to provide financial, legal/ethical and other support for groups that are active and productive in this field through the development of a local cell therapy programme.