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10th Scientific Merit Awards

Bronze Awards

Role: Medical doctor and public health medicine specialist

Work: Dr Jassat has 20-years’ experience in clinical practice, research and management in the South African public health sector and has a strong interest in health systems, particularly in using information for health planning and effective implementation of health programmes.


Role: Head of Research and Doctoral Programmes, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences

Work: Monitoring and Evaluation and advance data analysis. Multivariate Analysis Survival analysis and Modeling Nonparametric Statistics and E-Learning for Epidemiology & Statistics Epidemiology Logistic Regression


Role: Head of Medical Genetics at Tygerberg Hospital

Work: Prof Moosa runs the undiagnosed disease programme in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing the latest technology to the genetics clinics to benefit patients and families living with rare diseases.



Role: Senior lecturer, epidemiologist, and public health researcher at Stellenbosch University

Work: Dr Moodley is a specialist in Epidemiology, Gastrointestinal cancer and Surgical oncology. He worked as a scientific writing intern at the SAMRC HIV Prevention Research Unit in Durban in 2008 and that is where his passion for public health research started.

Role: Associate professor in immunology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Stellenbosch University

Work: Innate immunity, understanding the role of regulatory myeloid cells in host susceptibility to TB disease, primarily through mechanistic investigations in well-defined clinical cohorts, animal models and 3D printed organoids.


Role: Deputy Director and Specialist Scientist at Cochrane South Africa

Work: Dr Ndwandwe is responsible for conducting primary and secondary research on vaccine-related topics; vaccine implementation, clinical trial registration, HIV prevention trial implementation, molecular mycobacteriology, and evidence-informed decision-making processes


Role: Research Technologist in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Science at the Tshwane University of Technology

Work: Her research is focused on determining the quality, safety and efficacy (QSE) of herbal raw materials and products, using various techniques. This includes the chemical profiling of secondary metabolites in South African medicinal plants, using various chromatography, vibrational spectroscopy and imaging spectroscopy methods.

Silver Awards

Role: Professor, Head of Computational Biology Division, University of Cape Town

Work: Bioinformatics, genomics, computational biology with a focus on applications to human health. Studying microbial genomics and infectious diseases from both host and pathogen perspectives. Investigating human genetic factors underlying disease susceptibility and understanding the effect of the microbiome on immunity and disease.

Role: Professor and Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Work: Viral immunologist, studying the human immune response to infections. Her research group’s current focus is on understanding immunity during HIV-TB co-infection, and in particular the defects in cellular immunity that lead to an increase in TB risk during HIV infection.

Role: Deputy Director: Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA)

Work: Scaling up AIDS care and treatment in Southern Africa, Reducing mortality in TB-HIV co-infection, immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome, pharmacokinetic drug interactions and additive drug toxicity in TB HIV co-infection


Role: Co-principal investigator for Global Immunology and Immune Sequencing for Epidemic Response in South Africa (GIISER-SA)

Work: HIV virus-host dynamics, with a focus on how viral evolution during chronic HIV infection can be exploited to design preventative vaccines. more recent research within the viral respiratory pathogen field focuses on influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).


Role: Chief Specialist Scientist in the Gender and Health Research Unit (GHRU), South African Medical Research Council

Work: Within the Gender and Health Research Unit to transform violent and harmful masculinities and support boys and men to construct non-violent and health-promoting masculinities and to improve boys’ and men’s mental health and reduce their interpersonal violence perpetration.

Role: Professor Robert Mash is the Executive Head of the Department of Family and Emergency Medicine at Stellenbosch University and a Specialist Family Physician.

Work: His fields of research and area of expertise are in Clinical research on diabetes related to family medicine and primary health care. Educational research in the field of family medicine and primary health care. Health services research in the field of family medicine and primary health care.

Role: Associate Professor in Public Health at University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Work: Prof Garrett is a Technical Expert Consultant of the South African National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV, TB and STIs 2023 – 2028 and provides input on objectives and interventions on reducing STIs, cervical cancer and hepatitis that draws on his extensive experience in evaluating point of care diagnostics and STI interventions.

Role: Head of  Epidemiology at the Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis, of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)

Work: Providing data to describe the epidemiology of respiratory illness in South Africa including burden, risk factors for severe illness, vaccine effectiveness and cost effectiveness of interventions

Role: Director – Association of African Medicinal Plants Standards (AAMPS)

Work: Pharmaceutical drug discovery and regulatory affairs, Nutraceutical and cannabinoid research, Pharmaceutical policy and Bioentrepreneurship

Gold Awards

Professor Ncoza Dlova is the  Head of Dermatology as well as the Executive Dean and Head of the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Medical School. She is the first African woman to hold this position in the 75-year history of the UKZN Medical School. Since 2018 she remained the only female Dean among the 10 Deans in the South African Committee of Medical Deans until 2022

In 2015 she founded and became the President of the South African Women’s Dermatology Society

From 2019  to  2023  she was awarded  medal for best Dean in the College of Health Sciences, acknowledging her outstanding leadership in the School of Clinical Medicine and for the major role that she has played in stabilising and improving the morale of the staff and students. Her transformative vision left an indelible mark creating an environment that fosters growth, innovation, research productivity ,  collegiality and a sense of belonging for all.   Student protests were eliminated due to her excellent nurturing  relationship  with students .  Despite all the administrative and leadership  responsibilities, her research output was not dented  , in 2023 she was awarded the “B” rating by the National Research Foundation (NRF). In her capacity as Chief Specialist and Head of Dermatology at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, she has educated, trained and mentored over 40 dermatologists, 80% of whom are African women. Prof. Dlova’s commitment to dermatology and her extraordinary achievements have made her a role model for dermatologists and young doctors across Africa and globally. In collaboration with Harvard University, Prof. Dlova established the only dermatology surgery training program in South Africa.

Prof. Dlova has received numerous awards including the Dept of Health Excellence award 2020 ,  Clinics Leadership and  Research Excellence award 2021, South African Medical Association (SAMA) Excellence award  2024, and was awarded the prestigious membership to the American Dermatology Association(ADA) as well as Gold Medal by the Internatioanl Society of Dermatology(ISD) in recognition of her outstanding contribution to dermatology globally . She has been invited to give the Distinguished Dermatologist Plenary lecture at the upcoming International Society of Dermatology Congress to be held in Rome in 2025.

Professor Mark Tomlinson is the Co-Director of the Institute for Life Course Health Research in the Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University. He is also a Professor of Maternal and Child Health at the School of Nursing and Midwifery in Queens University in Belfast, United Kingdom. Prior to qualifying as a clinical psychologist from the University of Cape Town, he worked in the field of Child and Youth Care for 10 years. He holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. He has been involved in research for the last 22 years.

Prof Tomlinson possesses extensive research expertise encompassing child and adolescent development, early community-based health interventions, longitudinal intervention trials, and child, adolescent, research priority setting and maternal mental health. He has led key cohort research studies tracking the longitudinal impact of early interventions in South Africa, aimed at improving maternal and child health and child development. Specifically, he has led two longitudinal research cohorts of 13 and 19 years respectively; as well as a cohort study across 10 years in three African countries. To date, he has been a principal investigator (PI) or co-investigator on grants totaling over $45million (over R800 million).

Prof Tomlinson has to date published 371 papers in peer reviewed publications such as Lancet; PLOS Medicine; JAMA; Nature Medicine; Social Science and Medicine; Lancet Global Health and the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. Additionally, he has published 23 book chapters, and edited four books. Professor Tomlinson has an H-Index of 78 (Google Scholar) and has over 23 000 citations. He is a sought after invited/plenary speaker relating to global health, child and adolescent development, and research priority setting. In the course of 2023 alone for example, he was a plenary speaker at 7 local and international conferences.

Professor Tomlinson has contributed to several seminal global publications, notably the World Health Organization document the Nurturing Care Framework: A Framework for Helping Children Survive and Thrive to Transform Health and Human Potential (2018). He was one of the coordinating writers of the framework which has subsequently been adopted by many countries.  

Professor Tomlinson was elected as member of the Academy of Science of South Africa in 2017. He received the Chancellor Award from Stellenbosch University in 2015 which recognizes leading academics at the institution for their sustained contributions to excellence in research. This is the highest research award at Stellenbosch University and can only be awarded once. He has also received the Stellenbosch University Rectors Award for Research Excellence on 10 occasions.

While currently based at Stellenbosch University, Prof Tomlinson has had a long record of collaboration with the SAMRC. In addition, from 2006-2008 he was a Senior Scientist in the Health Systems Research Unit at the SAMRC.

Professor Steve Tollman is a Research Professor and the Head of the Division of Health and Population, School of Public Health at the University of the Witwatersrand. He also serves as the Director, SAMRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt)

Professor Tollman is devoted to “bringing the best science” to bear on the persisting – at times intractable – challenges facing rural health and development in South and sub-Saharan Africa. Neglect of rural health and wellbeing through the apartheid years, and imperatives arising in the democratic era, posed compelling questions on drivers of health and wellbeing, their determinants, and interventions that can be taken to scale. Responding meant confronting a profound data/evidence gap and led to his pioneering longitudinal population-based research platforms. These can generate data/findings attuned to critical health and development challenges, support varied study designs and disciplines, and foster engagement of local communities and public/private sector leadership (health, social services, education, innovation). 

In 1992/3 Steve introduced the Agincourt longitudinal health and socio-demographic surveillance system (HDSS), today covering a ‘whole population cohort’ of about120,000 people in 22,000 households and 31 villages in northeast South Africa, adjacent to the Kruger National Park near southern Mozambique. He played lead roles inestablishing SA and African research networks that harness the strengths of longitudinal research platforms for example the South African Population Research Infrastructure Network (SAPRIN)  and INDEPTH Network . These all generate vital insights into health and population transitions covering dramatic socio-political change, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and rise in cardiometabolic conditions, coupled with mental ill-health and COVID-19, which together render multimorbidity a pervasive challenge.

He has received numerous awards, to name a few: In 2023 he received the Alumni Award of Merit from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. In 2018 the National Science and Technology Foundation- South 32 award. In 2013 the INDEPTH Prize for Extraordinary Research in Population and Health (team award for article) and in 2010 the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Academic Citizenship from University of the Witwatersrand.

Prof Tollman holds a PhD in Epidemiology and Global Health from Umeå University of Sweden

In describing his relationship with the SAMRC Prof Tollman has expressed, “The SAMRC is an outstanding institution, central to South Africa’s research and health development capability. At both personal and Unit level, we enjoy a rewarding and mutually enriching relationship that adds exceptional value to the efforts and aspirations of our SAMRC/Wits research unit.”

Professor Anthony Okoh is a professor of Microbiology and the Director of the South African Medical Research Council's Microbial Water Quality Monitoring Centre at the University of Fort Hare. He is also the leader of the Water Research for Sustainable Development Niche Area at the University of Fort Hare.

Prof Okoh holds a B.Sc. (Hon) in Microbiology (Second Class Upper), M.Sc. (Microbiology) (Distinction) and Ph.D. (Microbiology).

His research expertise falls within the aegis of Environmental or Public Health Microbiology, with emphasis on water/wastewater quality and genomics, emerging and re-emerging pathogens and chemical pollutants in the environment, human and ecological health risk assessments, reservoirs of antibiotic resistance, and bioactive compounds of health and biotechnological importance.

 In 2008 Professor Okoh received the University of Fort Hare Vice-Chancellor Emerging Researcher Award, which was followed by the Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Researcher Award in 2011. Prof Okoh has published over 500 journal articles, supervised to completion 57 PhD and 70 MSc students, and delivered many plenaries, keynote addresses and distinguished guest lectures.

In 2009, Prof Okoh represent South Africa in the international collaboration on the Surveillance of Reservoirs of Antibiotic Resistance (ISRAR) under the auspices of the Alliance for the Prudent use of Antibiotics (APUA) with headquarters in the Boston, USA.  He was also a member of the South Africa delegation to Oman on the Oman-South Africa bilateral cooperation Workshop on Water & Agri-biotechnology in 2016. Also, in recognition of his immense contribution environmental vibriology research, Prof Okoh was appointed in 2023 to serve a member of the Cholera Advisory Panel for the Water Research Commission of South Africa.

Prof Okoh also served as President of the South Africa Society for Microbiology (2011-2013). Currently, he is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa; Fellow of the Water Institute of Southern Africa; Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences; Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology; Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences, and Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences amongst others. His current H-index is 76 with over 24000 citations. He is the Chairperson of the membership selection committee (Bioscience sector) of the African Academy of Sciences.

Professor Okoh has won several national and international research grants including from the SAMRC, but he notes that the greatest impact to his research has been the SAMRC Microbial Water Quality Monitoring Centre which took effect on 1 April 2015. This EMU has been the most productive research entity in the University of Fort Hare since its inception, and it has been a major hub for skills and capacity development, especially amongst the previously disadvantaged demographic groups in the country, and for this he remains very grateful to the SAMRC.


Professor Penny Moore is the Director of Antibody Immunity Research Unit (AIRU) at the South African Medical Research Council. A Research Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, and the Academic Head of the Divisions of Immunology and Virology at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Prof. Penny Moore leads a multi-disciplinary team of more than 15 scientists and 10 postgraduate students who work largely in the fields of HIV and Covid-19 vaccine discovery, combining Virology, Immunology, Protein Biochemistry and Bioinformatics. Professor Moore has worked in the HIV vaccine field for more than 20 years and has made seminal contributions to understanding how broadly neutralising antibodies develop in HIV infection. Understanding the pathway to neutralising breadth has provided a template for HIV vaccine design strategies, many of which are now being tested in human clinical trials. More recently, with the emergence of COVID-19, Moore’s team adapted their skills and platforms to conduct research on SARS-CoV-2.  Professor Moore was globally recognised as a leader in defining and characterising variants of concern, and her lab published several high impact papers defining the humoral response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination. More recently, the team has expanded their scope further to work on Influenza, Cytomegalovirus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Adenoviruses and Ebola. In the past 20 years, Professor Moore has contributed towards more than 165 papers, focusing predominantly on antibodies and their interplay with evolving viruses, a result of extensive collaborations within South Africa and internationally. She has an H-factor of 44.

Moore has a very strong focus on mentorship and capacity development. She supervises several postgraduate students and post-doctoral fellows within her lab and across several other institutes, and contributes to teaching at her University and others. She serves on the advisory committees of national and African capacity development and training initiatives. Moore also serves on the Scientific advisory boards of several international virology institutes and research consortia in Europe, America and Australia.

In 2020 Moore received the National Research Foundation B1 rating, following a B3 rating in 2014. In 2018 she was awarded the South African Medical Research Council Silver Medal.

Professor Moore holds a PhD in Virology,from the Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, United Kingdom.

Moore serves as Director of the Antibody Immunity Research Unit (AIRU), an extramural unit of the SAMRC.  Penny first received direct funding from the SAMRC in 2014 though a SHIP Grant. She has subsequently received extensive funding for HIV and SARS-CoV-2 research, as have senior members of her team. This sustained SA MRC funding, along with extensive international funding, has supported capacity development within the AIRU team.


Professor Alan Christoffels is a Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of the Western Cape and the Director of the South African National Bioinformatics Institute based at the UWC campus. He also serves as a director at the SAMRC  Bioinformatics research unit as director.

His research fields and area of expertise are in Bioinformatics of infectious diseases, developing methods for analysing high throughput sequencing data such as Tuberculosis drug resistance tools. Prof Christoffels leads a global consortium of international universities and public health agencies to drive genomic epidemiology in the context of public health. His expertise in microbial genome analysis and pathogen data archiving has been instrumental in this regard.

He has received numerous awards, these include the UWC Innovation Award for social impact received in 2019. The Fulbright Visiting Scholar Award to Boston, USA in 2016, the National Research Foundation Hamilton Naki award in 2015, and the HUGO (Human Genome Organisation) Africa Prize for leadership in genetics research on the african continent.

During the COVID-19 pandemic he has been the advisor to the Africa CDC on pathogen genomics where his shaped the role out of a continental pathogen genomics surveillance network. Currently he is leading a continental data archive project on behalf of the Africa CDC.

Prof Christoffels holds a B2 rated scientist rating and he is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the Royal Society of South Africa.

Prof Christoffels affiliation with the SAMRC goes back to 2010. He has participated in various national initiatives led by the SAMRC such as the Southern African Human Genome Project, the rollout of a BGI sequencing platform, and research capacity development and training programs where he has graduated nearly 50 postgraduate students.

Professor Cheryl Cohen is a Medical doctor who specialises in clinical microbiology, epidemiologist. She currently serves as the Head of the Centre for Respiratory Disease and Meningitis at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa.

Prof Cohen works closely with the National Department of Health to generate evidence that guides policy about the control and management of respiratory diseases. She led the establishment of a national surveillance programme for severe acute respiratory infections in South Africa in 2009. She leads a research team in the field of respiratory diseases with a focus on the burden of disease, risk groups and transmission, as well as assessments of the impact and effectiveness of interventions to reduce disease burden. During the COVID-19 epidemic in South Africa, Prof Cohen led the workstream for surveillance programmes and public reporting. She is a member of several national and international advisory committees and working groups that are mainly related to influenza and other respiratory viruses. She is a member of the board of the International Society for Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses, the chair of the African Network for Influenza Surveillance and Epidemiology and a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee for COVID-19 vaccines. She has been the coordinator for the Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Module of the MSc in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of the Witwatersrand since 2006 and coordinator of the Epidemiology Module for the msc Vacinology since 2019.

She was the recipient of the South African Medical Research Council Silver Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Health Research. In 2022 her profile featured in Lancet Infectious Diseases—promoting evidence-based health policy . And then in 2020 she received a personal profile feature in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

She holds a MBBCh in Medicine from the University of the Witwatersrand, a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (with distinction) University of the Witwatersrand, MSc in Epidemiology (with distinction) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a PhD in Epidemiology

Prof Cohen received funding for a number of research projects from the SAMRC – this was particularly important during COVID-19 when there were mechanisms for rapid funding.