SAMRC strengthens response to the country’s burden of disease

In response to the country’s various disease burdens, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) recently launched seven new Extramural Units (EMUs) – six of which are led by women who, over the years, made outstanding scientific contribution to advancing science and building the knowledge base in their respective disciplines. 

Held in Johannesburg at the beginning of September, the launch was attended by officials from the SAMRC and National Department of Health (NDoH), Higher Education Institutions and a student cohort of current SAMRC funding beneficiaries.

Speaking at the launch, SAMRC President and CEO, Prof Glenda Gray says the appointment of women at the helm of most of these Units bears testimony to the organisation’s commitment to its adopted transformation strategy. She also pointed out that although women make up more than half of graduates in the medical and life sciences and 70% of the global health workforce, they are vastly under-represented at senior levels.

“At the SAMRC, we are changing the face of science in South Africa - today as we celebrate leaders of medical science, we are seeing the field being transformed by highly capable academics,” said Gray emphasising that gender equity in science and racial diversity are both a moral and necessary imperative.

Before officially launching the new Units, Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, applauded the SAMRC for its continued contribution to South Africa’s scientific edifice and its knowledge economy and moreso conducting responsive research that tackles the burden of emerging diseases the country faces.

He also added that this is in line with the organisation’s undertaking to government to continuously align its work with national transformation targets and strategies.

It wouldn’t be a launch if new directors didn’t provide overviews of their respective units - from a bird’s eye view, the Units’ research will focus on drug development; antibody immunity; genomics; translational research; health economics; cardiometabolic research and antimicrobial resistance.

Additional to an already existing 18 other Extramural Units (EMU’s) and 11 Intramural Units (IMU’s), these new units bring together to a total of 36 Research Units at the SAMRC which will continue to contribute to the global archive of life-affirming knowledge.

The new EMUs and their Directors

  1. SAMRC/NICD Antibody Immunity Research UnitProf Lynn Morris
  2. SAMRC/SUN Genomics of Brain Disorders Research UnitProf Soraya Seedat
  3. SAMRC/UCT Wound and Keloid Scarring Translational Research UnitProf Nonhlanhla Khumalo
  4. SAMRC/Wits Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science – PRICELESS SAProf Karen Hofman
  5. SAMRC/CPUT Cardiometabolic Health Research UnitProf Tandi Matsha
  6. SAMRC/UP Precision Prevention and Novel Drug Targets for HIV-Associated CancersProf Zodwa Dlamini
  7. SAMRC/UCT Centre for the Study of Antimicrobial Resistance Research UnitProf Keertan Dheda

**Extramural Units refer to units that are funded by the SAMRC and conduct research at an academic institution or organisation outside of the Council.