The South African Medical Research Council strongly supports excellence in health research and has established a set of medal awards to recognise world-class science. The Awards are among South Africa’s most prestigious and are dedicated to contributions to health research in South Africa.
Platinum medals are awarded each year to accomplished scientists for outstanding lifetime scientific achievement in the field of health. Up to two platinum medals may be awarded each year with preference given to one medal for an SAMRC (intra-mural or extra-mural) scientist and one medal for a non-SAMRC scientist. Platinum medals are awarded to South African citizens who have made seminal scientific contributions and who have also made an impact on local and/or global health and/or science policy and/or clinical practice that impact on the health of people, especially those living in developing countries. The Platinum Medal is a Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding scientist who has raised the profile of South African science and helped build the foundations of health research in the country for future generations. Additional criteria for awarding a platinum medal are as follows:
At least one exceptional scientific accomplishment, breakthrough or contribution to research which is acknowledged at national and international level
Meritorious contributions to enhancing the prestige of South African medical research and/or extending medical knowledge
As a guideline, candidates for a platinum medal should have over 100 scientific papers, with many in high impact journals and several receiving high citation rates (i.e. >100 citations) over the course of a lifetime in health research
Serve on national and international panels, advisory groups and working groups in their field of research
Recipient of other prestigious awards and commendations that recognize scientific achievement.
Gold Medal - SAMRC Scientific Achievement Award
Gold medals are awarded annually to established senior scientists who have made seminal scientific contributions that have impacted on the health of people, especially those living in developing countries. Up to four gold medals may be awarded each year. The Gold Award is a Scientific Excellence Award.
Criteria for awarding gold medals are as follows:
A recent exceptional accomplishment, breakthrough or contribution to research (within the last 5 years) which is acknowledged at international level
This accomplishment/breakthrough/contribution can take the form of a patent or very high impact (IF 15 and over) / highly cited journal publications (a single or a set of related publications with >250 citations). This meritorious contribution must have clearly enhanced the prestige of South African medical research and extended medical knowledge
Demonstrated impact of the research contribution on health in South Africa or globally
Silver Medal - SAMRC Scientific Achievement Award
Silver medals are awarded annually to early/mid-career scientists from either a MBBCH/ MBCHb background or from a PhD background. To qualify they must hold a PhD/ MMed/or equivalent in the case of clinicians e.g. FCP. The award is for important scientific contributions made within 10 years of having been awarded their PhD or MMed. Up to four silver medals may be awarded each year with preference given to two medals for SAMRC (intra-mural and extra-mural) scientists and two medals to non-SAMRC scientists.
Criteria for awarding silver medals are as follows:
Research contributions that impact on the health of people, especially those living in developing countries
Acknowledgements at national and international level for meritorious scientific contributions and/or extending medical knowledge
At least one publication in a very high impact journal or a highly cited publication (> 100 citations).
Bronze Medal - SAMRC Scientific Achievement Award
Bronze medals are awarded annually to scientists who have recently entered into research, with not less than 5 years post PhD experience. The award is not tied to chronological age but researchers should preferably be under 50 years of age.
Criteria for awarding bronze medals are as follows:
Leadership: the researcher must show demonstrable potential to become an established researcher, with distinct and evident scientific and leadership potential.
Capacity Development: The researcher must have graduated Masters students and must be supervising (or have already graduated) PhD students.
Grant writing: The researcher must have independently sourced grant funding for their research work in the past 5 years.
Transformation: The researcher must add to transformation efforts of the SAMRC by either conducting their research in an under-resourced university or involved in capacity development initiatives in under-resourced universities.
Procedures for Award and Announcement
Nominated candidates will only be considered if a completed application form is submitted before the deadline.
The nominee and nominator will be required to jointly submit the nomination form.
Incomplete and inaccurate nomination forms will not be considered.
A nominator may not serve on the SAMRC Merit Awards Selection Committee.
The SAMRC Merit Awards Selection Committee will be appointed by the SAMRC President. The committee will include the SAMRC President (ex-officio), an SAMRC Board member, the SAMRC’s Vice-President(s) and one past winner of an SAMRC medal and a well-established senior scientist who is not employed by the SAMRC.
The SAMRC Merit Awards Selection Committee will meet to discuss and consider the candidates and make recommendations for the Platinum, Gold and Silver Medals to submit to the SAMRC Board for a final decision.
The SAMRC Merit Awards Selection Committee may rollover deserving nominations to the following years for repeat consideration. These candidates will be invited to submit updated resumes.
The SAMRC Merit Awards Selection Committee and/or the SAMRC Board may decide to make an award that is different to that requested on the nomination form e.g. a nominee for the gold medal may be re-assigned to the silver or platinum category by the Merit Awards Selection Committee or the SAMRC Board. The Merit Awards Selection Committee or the SAMRC Board may decide not to award any medals or not to award all the listed medals if there are insufficient suitable candidates.
Special Awards Categories
The SAMRC President, the SAMRC Vice President(s) and/or the SAMRC Merit Awards Selection Committee may recommend to the SAMRC Board awards in special categories, i.e. besides silver, gold and platinum medals, to recognise exceptional achievements and contributions to South African medical research. One example is the SAMRC President’s Award for Exceptional Contributions to Medical Research, which is made, at the discretion of the SAMRC President, in recognition of exceptional contributions to medical research.
Announcement of Awards
The awards will be announced through the following channels: an organisation-wide email, a press release, targeted communications to external stakeholders, and an awards event/ceremony. The names of medal awardees will be included on new medal boards at the SAMRC campuses and on the SAMRC website.
Awards in the bronze, silver, gold and platinum categories will include an actual Medal, a framed certificate and a cash award to be determined by the SAMRC Board.
The medals will contain the SAMRC logo and will be plated with bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
The cash awards currently are:
R10 000 for Bronze
R15 000 for Silver
R30 000 for Gold
R50 000 for Platinum
Cash awards are made to the primary organisation that the medal winner is affiliated with.
The SAMRC President’s Award for Exceptional Contributions to Medical Research will include a trophy, a framed certificate and a cash award equivalent to that awarded in the platinum category.
Awards in other special categories will include a trophy, a framed certificate and a cash award at the discretion of the Board.
In the period from 2013 onwards, the awarding of medals is progressive i.e. a recipient of a medal other than the platinum medal may subsequently be nominated for a medal in any of the higher medal categories.
The Lifetime Achievement award is the highest and final SAMRC award that a candidate may receive. Under the pre-2013 SAMRC medal rules, the SAMRC only made awards for significant scientific achievements over a sustained period i.e. the equivalent of the current SAMRC platinum award. A candidate who has received recognition by the SAMRC for lifetime achievement through a pre-2013 SAMRC gold or silver medal or the current SAMRC platinum medal is no longer eligible for a SAMRC gold, silver or another platinum medal.
Hence, winners of the SAMRC gold and silver medals prior to 2013 are not eligible for consideration for any of the current SAMRC medals. Under the pre-2013 SAMRC medal rules, only scientists associated either part-time or full-time with the SAMRC were eligible for the gold medal while non-SAMRC scientists were eligible only for the silver medal. Under the current rules, SAMRC scientists and non-SAMRC scientists are eligible for all medal categories.
Managing Conflicts of Interests
The following individuals are not eligible for SAMRC Scientific Achievement Awards:
Members of the Award Selection Committee
Members of the current Board
The serving SAMRC President and SAMRC Vice President(s)
Immediate family members of (a) to (c) i.e. parents, spouses & children
The following individuals may not submit nominations or be referees for nominees:
Members of the Awards Selection Committee
Members of the current Board
The serving SAMRC President and SAMRC Vice President(s)
Immediate family members of (a) to (c) i.e. parents, spouses & children
In the event that a nominee is associated in some way with an individual listed in (4.1) and (4.2) above, the conflicted individual will be required to declare the potential conflict of interest and to recuse him/herself from any involvement in the process related to that nominee.
Professor Diane Gray
Associate Professor Diane Gray is a Consultant Paediatric pulmonologist and clinical scientist in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and University of Cape Town.
She currently holds a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Fellowship for research into the early determinants of chronic respiratory illness in African Children.
Dr Gray’s clinical research focuses on high burden paediatric diseases including TB prevention in children living with HIV, HIV associated lung disease, early life determinants of chronic respiratory illness and the development of lung function as a diagnostic and management tool in childhood. Her work includes setting up the first African infant and preschool lung function laboratory on the Drakenstein Child Health Study (DCHS), an African birth cohort. This work has identified a number of novel antenatal and early life factors impacting healthy lung growth, many amenable to public health interventions.
She has been actively involved in developing lung function tools locally and regionally and contributes to international working groups in infant and preschool lung function. This has led to the strengthening of clinical respiratory physiology and teaching nationally, improving the quality of respiratory care provided and strengthening child respiratory health research. She currently leads one clinical and two research lung function teams and provides expert support to four other regional African paediatric research teams.
She plays a key role in developing African clinical scholarship through supervision, advocacy and leadership.
Due to her indelible mark in research, she is no stranger to the scientific red carpets – in 2017 she was awarded the South African Thoracic Society Best Publication Award, and a year before that, she was awarded the University of Cape Town, Faculty of Health Sciences, Best Publication Award, postgraduate clinical sciences. She won the best research presentation at 2015 South African Thoracic Society Congress, and she was recipient of the Thrasher Early Career Development Award in 2012/13. Other awards include Discovery Foundation Academic award 2010/2011 and Discovery Foundation Sub-specialist award 2010.
Speaking of her relationship with the SAMRC, she says she is a previous recipient of an SAMRC Research Fellowship (2006), which supported research into TB preventive therapy in children living with HIV and her me the opportunity to develop a strong research foundation as a clinician scientist.
She is also, an investigator in the SAMRC Unit on Child and Adolescent Health, University of Cape Town, which has afforded the opportunity not only to undertake much needed research into strengthening child respiratory health, but in supporting other students and junior researchers and developing local research capacity.
Her qualifications include:
MBChB (Bachelor of medicine and surgery)
FRACP (Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Paediatrics)
MPhil (Master of Philosophy, Paediatric Pulmonology)
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy, Paediatric Pulmonology)
Dr Nasheeta Peer
An old adage that goes, “a journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step”, resonates with Dr Nasheeta Peer. What she simply recalls as being a fortuitous viewing of a vacancy advertisement by the South African Medical Research Council back in 2004 and applying for it, led her to the world of research and unlocked her potential as a scientist.
At the time, the organisation was looking to appoint a clinician to conduct cardiovascular disease research, but fast forward from that day, she has a different story to tell – she describes the past 18 years that she has spent at the SAMRC to be the most fulfilling of her career.
But who is Dr Peer?
A NRF C1 rated scientist, Dr Peer is a Senior Specialist Scientist within the Non-Communicable Diseases Research Unit of the SAMRC and conducts research on non-communicable diseases epidemiology focusing on Cardiovascular and cardiometabolic diseases. Her area of expertise includes Diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, obesity and tobacco smoking.
But that is not all there is to this – she is also Associate Professor at the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health sciences, University of Cape Town (UCT); an Associate Editor for the: BMC Public Health, as well as the Academic Editor for the: PLOS Global Public Health.
Her immeasurable contribution to research has led to a number of accolades under her name – including the recipient of the best publication in diabetes award presented by the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA) in 2013 and 2015; and an award in the International Society of Hypertension (ISH) New Investigator Oral Presentation category in 2021. Even with her busy schedule, she managed to receive distinctions for her MPH and MBA dissertations – talk about a bookworm of note!
Speaking of being a bookworm, Dr Peer’s qualifications include:
MBChB: University of Natal
MBA (Master of Business Administration): University of Cape Town
MPH (Master’s in Public Health): University of Cape Town
PhD (Doctorate in Medicine): University of Cape Town
Prof Marlo Möller
Professor Marlo Möller is a Research Scientists, Professor and Head of the TB Host Genetics Group within the Division of Molecular Biology & Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University.
Her primary research focus is on finding the human genetic underpinnings of infectious diseases, especially tuberculosis (TB). Major research topics include:
common genetic variants that predispose the general population to pulmonary TB;
individuals that display extreme forms of TB resistance and susceptibility, specifically “resisters”, tuberculous meningitis and Primary Immunodeficiencies;
human population genetics;
as well as functional studies in these contexts.
Other scientific interests include the development of genetic resources, such as reference genomes and allele frequency databases, for Southern African populations.
Over the years, the National Research Foundation (NRF) C3 Rated Researcher has won several awards, including the National Research Foundation Research Career Award; the Stellenbosch University Rector’s award for general performance and the South African Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Award: Best National Honours Student.
Her qualifications include a PhD in Medical Biochemistry; BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry (cum laude); BSc in Molecular and Cellular Biology. She also completed a Programme for the development of leadership and team skills (NQF level 5).
She says her relationship with the SAMRC is a longstanding one dating from her postgraduate studies. Professor attributes her successful research, in part, to the SAMRC, saying that without the bursaries she received from the SAMRC, she would not have been able to complete her degrees. She is currently a member of the SAMRC Centre for Tuberculosis Research.
Professor Rabia Johnson
If “Perseverance is the mother of success” was a person, then Professor Rabia Johnson would probably be that person.
Having joined the South African Medical Research Council in 2009 as a Junior Scientist, it has become very clear that Professor Johnson does not work for recognition but conducts work that is worthy of recognition. It is with this mindset that she has been able to grow in leaps and bounds through the ranks of the organisation while also positioning herself as an established researcher in the field of non-communicable diseases.
Today she is a NRF C2 rated scientist who holds a PhD degree as well as a BA Honours degree in Business Management and occupies the position Co-Deputy Director at Biomedical Research and Innovation Platform (BRIP). In addition to her undoubtable hard work and dedication, she also attributes this achievement to the SAMRC’s Accelerated Development Program whose primary objective is to develop targeted employees to be competent in their current positions and to prepare them for future leadership positions as Unit Directors, support/business leaders and/or Division Managers or Executive Directors of SAMRC Divisions.
Professor Johnson leads the Cardiometabolism Group within BRIP/SAMRC. Despite having a plethora of treatment options available, diabetes and hypertension continue to be the leading cause of cardiovascular-related deaths worldwide. Hence, her research group focuses on understanding and delineating insults such as Doxorubicin-induced toxicity, diabetes and hypertension effects on the cardiovascular system.
As a molecular biologist, she uses molecular mechanisms to elucidate pathophysiological mechanisms activated during the progression of diabetes-induced cardiovascular function, side effects induced by pharmacological treatment, including Dox-induced cardiotoxicity and the role pharmacogenomics plays in hypertension treatment failure.
Understanding disease physiology will unravel novel biomarkers capable of predicting disease risk and investigating the therapeutic potential of indigenous plant extracts against these conditions. This is especially important in the African population with its resource-constrained settings.
Also, using her molecular background, Prof Johnson was instrumental in the SAMRC COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program, where she was able to detect, quantify and identify variants of concern circulating within the community. She was also, involved in the expansion of the molecular programme nationwide to other institutions and research centers.
For a workaholic she is, it is no surprise that her name sends echoes of vibrations within scientific corridors and that she holds various other positions outside of the SAMRC, including Associate Professor within the Division of Medical Physiology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Tygerberg Campus, Stellenbosch University.
In order to advance her work, she has received various research grants, including the NRF Competitive Support for Rated Researchers, NRF Thuthuka Award, SAMRC Early Career Fellowship, Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) Pharmacogenomics in Precision Medicine and the South African Rooibos Council (SARC) funding. Furthermore, the SARC acknowledged her role in science and paid tribute to her invaluable contribution to the rooibos research.
Passionate about capacity development, Prof Johnson has over the last decade, effectively transferred knowledge which contribute to scientific and professional development of young researchers under her supervision.
Prof Ambroise Wonkam
Prof Ambroise Wonkam is Director of GeneMAP (Genetic Medicine of African Populations), at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa and also a professor of Genetic Medicine, and Director of McKusick-Nathans Institute, and Department of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA.
After a MD training from the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Yaoundé He (Cameroon), he completed a thesis in Medicine/Medical Sciences at the University of Geneva (Switzerland), and a PhD in Human Genetics (University of Cape Town, South Africa). Prof Wonkam also trains as a specialist medical geneticist at a highly reputable Genetic Medicine at the University of Geneva (Switzerland). He subsequently practices medical genetics in both European and African contexts.
His research interests are reflected in more than 180 peer-reviewed publications. His research focuses on Genomics modifiers of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD); Genetics of hearing loss and Ethical and educational Issues in human genetics in Africa. Prof Wonkam has led successfully over the past 10 years numerous NIH and Wellcome Trust funded projects accounting for about 20m USD, to pursue research studies in various countries in Africa (Tanzania, Cameroon, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Mali, Sudan, Rwanda, and Ghana).
Prof Wonkam is associate Editor of the American Journal of Human Genetics, the American Journal of Medical Genetics, the Journal of Community Genetics, and Academic Editor of Plos One, and member of the editorial Board of Human Genetics.
Prof Wonkam is president of the African Society of Human Genetics, Chair of the steering committee of H3Africa consortium, Board member of the International Federation of Human Genetics Societies, steering committee’s member of the Global Genetic Medicine Collaborative (G2MC), Faculty Scholar of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO).
He was awarded the 2003 Denber-Pinard Prize for the best thesis from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Switzerland, and won the very competitive Clinical Genetics Society International Award for 2014, from the British Society of Genetic Medicine, and 2021 Alan Pifer Award, that honours a UCT researcher whose outreach work has contributed to the advancement and welfare of South Africa’s disadvantaged people.
He has previously been funded by SAMRC through its self-initiated grant scheme
Prof Grant Theron
Prof Grant Theron is a Professor of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. He is also a member of the DST/NRF Centre for Excellence in Tuberculosis Research and the South Africa Medical Research Council’s Centre for Tuberculosis Research, both of which are embedded within Stellenbosch University.
His core research interests are the design and field evaluation of improved diagnostics for tuberculosis and drug resistance, the transmission and aerobiology of tuberculosis, including drug-resistant tuberculosis, and most recently the microbiome in the context of tuberculosis.Prof Theron has a record of accomplishment of recruiting tuberculosis patients in Africa for high impact clinical trials.
He has led several projects on tuberculosis diagnostics, which have measured their impact on long-term patient outcomes. He has held a Training Fellowship in Public Health and Tropical Medicine from the Wellcome Trust, he is a European and Developing Countries Clinical Trial Partnership (EDCTP) Senior Fellow and holds a Newton Advanced Fellowship from the British Royal Society.
In a relatively short period, he has published approximately 60 papers in international peer-reviewed journals and has registered one patent. He holds a P-rating from the South African National Research Foundation (the highest rating available to researchers <35 years old). His sterling work has attracted international recognition and awards including:
Gertrud Meisner Award by the European Society of Mycobacteriology (2019)
T.W. Kambule Emerging Researcher Awardby the NSTF-BHP Billiton (2015)
Merit Award from the Claude Leon Foundation (2015)
Meiring Naudé Medal in Recognition of Outstanding Early Career Contributions to the Furtherance of Science by the Royal Society of South Africa (2014)
Young Investigator Prize from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (2014)
Named of the Top 200 Young South Africans by the Mail and Guardian (2014)
Won the Silver Scientific Merit Award from the South African Medical Research Council (2014)
Merit Award from the University of Cape Town (2013)
To put the cherry on top, Prof Theron is a member of various local and international organisations – to mention a few, he is a member of:
The American Society of Microbiology
The Scientific Advisory Committee, Identifying Men’s Preferences for a Male Centered TB Care Intervention, co-PIs Medina-Marino, Daniels.
The Scientific Advisory Committee, GeneXpert Omni Evaluation Trials, Foundation for New and Innovative Diagnostics.
The European Society for Mycobacteriology
Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Tuberculosis Omics ResearCH (TORCH), co-PIs van Rie, Warren.
Professor Ntobeko Ntusi
Prof Ntobeko Ntusi is a cardiologist, a Professor of Medicine and is the Chair and Head of Medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH); and is the Clinical Lead for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance (CMR) at UCT and GSH. He is also principal investigator based at the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa and the Cape Universities Body Imaging Centre.
He obtained a BSc (Hons) degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Haverford College, USA and an MBChB degree from UCT. He served his internship and later worked as a community service medical officer and senior house officer at Frere Hospital in East London, South Africa. He then completed a fellowship in Internal Medicine and a certificate in Cardiology through the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa. He read for a DPhil in Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Oxford and completed his MD in Cardiology at UCT.
He has extensive experience with basic science, translational and clinical research and currently supervises postgraduate students and is conducting several single- and multi-centre mechanistic studies, which are mostly CMR-based. Through his research, Prof. Ntusi has built strong links with colleagues in clinical cardiology, physics and biomedical engineering, HIV medicine, rheumatology, immunology, molecular genetics and biomedical statistics; and he has shown capacity for performance in scientific investigational teams and is suited to being part of multi-disciplinary and multi-centre studies.
He has been actively engaged and contributed to improved understanding of heart failure and cardiomyopathy, inflammatory heart disease and the application of molecular biology and advanced cardiovascular imaging techniques to the study of cardiovascular phenotypes and disease mechanisms, in in South Africa and globally. His key contributions include:
escription of the clinical features, outcomes and genetic underpinnings of different forms of cardiomyopathy in South Africa
description of novel applications of cardiovascular magnetic resonance in the study of cardiovascular disease
description of the cardiovascular phenotype and pathophysiology of autoimmune forms of inflammatory heart disease with cardiovascular magnetic resonance
first description of utility of cardiovascular magnetic resonance to delineate the phenotype of cardiovascular involvement in HIV-infected persons
multiple reports on study of myocardial fibrosis, infiltration and inflammation in different clinical contexts.
Some of his awards and accolades include:
Membership of the Academy of Science of South Africa – 2021;
Induction into the University of Cape Town College of Fellows – 2021;
Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians (London) – 2020;
Fellowship of the Royal Society of South Africa – 2020;
Walter Siegenthaler Medal from University of Zurich – 2019;
University of Oxford Oppenheimer Academic Exchange Fellowship – 2018;
National Research Foundation Science Team Award – 2017;
Destiny Man’s Power of Forty Award (to 40 South Africans under the age of 40 years making the largest contributions to their fields) – 2015;
National Research Foundation Emerging Researcher Award – 2015;
Mail and Guardian’s 200 Most Influential Young South Africans Award – 2011;
Prof Tulio de Oliveira
An attempt in 2022 to describe Professor Tulio de Oliveira in one sentence would probably read something like “the man who facilitated the identification of the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern – Beta and Omicron in South Africa.”
But for a world-renowned bioinformatics scientist, with over 20 years' experience working and conducting clinic-based and population-based research, the description does not even begin to scratch the surface to capture his journey.
Prof. Tulio de Oliveira’s journey began when he received his BSc at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil, followed by MSc and PhD at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. He was a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, U.K. from 2004 to 2006 and a Newton Advanced Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI) and at the University of Edinburgh from 2015-2019. In 2015, he became a Professor in the School of Laboratory Medicine & Medical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa and in 2018 an Associate Professor on Global Health at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA.
Professor De Oliveira wears different leadership hats at different times and places – including but not limited to Professor of Bioinformatics, School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University; and Director of the newly-established Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), which is also housed at the same University.
He is the Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation & Sequencing Platform (KRISP), and a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) – both these are close-associate organisations of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) that are based in Durban, South Africa.
Throughout his career, Prof. de Oliveira has worked with viral outbreaks, including HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Chikungunya, Dengue, SARS-CoV-2, Zika, and Yellow Fever Virus. Prof. de Oliveira has more than 150 publications, with many of them in, the top scientific journals such as Nature, Science and Lancet.
Most recently, Prof De Oliveira has cemented his place as of the top scientists in the forefront of the country’s fight against Covid-19 since it hit our shores – notably, he collaborated with leading research organizations to create the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA). This was funded largely by the SAMRC, along with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) to respond to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Professor de Oliveira has a long-standing relationship with the that spans about 15 years – all his bioinformatics servers are housed at the SAMRC. He has been the recipient of several SAMRC grant awards, including the 5–year Flagship Programme grant to understand the causes and consequences of HIV transmission.
Professor Andre Pascal Kengne
Professor Andre Pascal Kengne is a specialist physician: Internal Medicine; Chronic non-communicable diseases; epidemiologist and preventionist – he holds a PhD in medicine from the Sydney University, Australia.
Professor Kengne is the current Director of South African Medical Research Council’s Non-Communicable Diseases Research Unit, and holds conjoint appointments as Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, as well as Extraordinary Professor of Global Health, Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University.
He is also a Visiting Professor at the Instituto de Salud Global de Barcelona (ISGlobal), Barcelona University; Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences; Member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf); an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the George Institute for Global Health, and Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Julius Centre, University Medical Centre, Utrecht
His research of focus is on non-communicable disease epidemiology and prevention with a major focus on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic diseases, chronic kidney disease; Co-morbid non-communicable diseases in people with HIV; Disease risk modelling; Prognostic and diagnostic research and Implementation research. Over the course of his journey, he has co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and monographs on chronic diseases in Africa and at the global level.
Professor Kengne’s immense contribution to research has earned him multiple awards and recognition from local and international bodies, including:
The Sir Alberti Award for excellence in research on diabetes in Africa
The SAMRC Gold Award for Scientific Excellence
The International Society of Hypertension (ISH) Research Scholar Award
The Georgie Award from the George Institute for Global Health
The Jiri Windimsky, Sr Award
Prof Kengne joined the SAMRC in 2011 as Director of the National Collaborative Research Programme on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease. He was re-appointed as Director of the Non-Communicable Diseases Research Unit (NCDRU) in 2013, which is his current position in the organisation.
Prof Koleka Patience Mlisana
Professor Koleka Mlisana has over 40 years’ experience in health sciences and is a Pathologist Medical Microbiologist by training and current executive manager of academic affairs, research, and quality assurance at the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS).
Earlier in 2021, she was appointed by the then Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize to take over the reigns as Co-Chair the COVID-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC). However, neither were the positions of leadership nor the MAC a new territory for her as she had chaired the subcommittee on pathology/laboratory since its inception. She also serves as a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on antimicrobial resistance.
A Pathologist Medical Microbiologist by profession, Prof Mlisana’s fields of research and area of expertise include HIV/AIDS, focusing on HIV prevention and pathogenesis Research which has revealed how the body responds during acute HIV infection. She also has vested research interests in TB diagnostics, Antimicrobial resistance, as well as Sexually transmitted infections
In the 1990s, she was part of the group of scientists researching the devastating unknowns of HIV, looking for answers even as the virus kept claiming lives. Professor Mlisana was head of the HIV Pathogenesis and Vaccine Research Programme under the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa). Her research focused on understanding the body’s response to acute HIV infection.
Those years of being a scientist were about doing her research work while constantly having to synthesise a flood of new information. It was also fighting a ticking clock, denialism, stigmas, taboos and then political delay when antiretroviral treatment was prescribed.
Prof Mlisana’s journey to becoming the country’s first black microbiologist began when she received her MBChB (Medical Microbiology) and later MMed Path (Medical Microbiology) from the University of Natal, before proceeding to pursue a PhD (Medical Mocrobiology) at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN).
Being the Executive Manager Academic Affairs, Research & Quality Assurance, at the National Health Laboratory Service, Prof Mlisana is thankful to the SAMRC for the role they play in enhancing research within this specific environment, especially taking into account the enhanced support offered to the historically disadvantaged academic institutions in bolstering their research capacity and development.
Silver Medal Winners
Dr Tanya Doherty
Dr Doherty is a Senior Specialist Scientist in the Health Systems Research Unit at the MRC. Despite being a young researcher she has a well-established research focus and identity in the field of child health and HIV. Her research has made important contributions to the evidence around operational effectiveness of PMTCT and infant feeding policies and she has been at the forefront of open debate and policy discussions in leading high impact journals. Her research has been used in the GRADE process to inform changes to WHO guidelines on HIV and infant feeding, and influenced South African National Department of Health guidelines. She is also the only scientist in the MRC Health Systems Research Unit with NRF rating. Since completing her PhD in 2006 Dr Doherty has rapidly built up a strong publication record with over 40 peer reviewed papers. The citation record of her work illustrates the importance of her research on child health and HIV which is a priority area for research locally and internationally. Her leadership in the field of child health is also clearly evidenced by the invitations she receives to speak at local and international conferences. She was an invited keynote speaker at a national ministerial consultation on breastfeeding in 2011, and has been the invited author for the chapter on PMTCT for the District Health Barometer publication of the Health System’s Trust annually since 2006. She is currently leading further work for UNICEF reviewing child survival intervention programmes in 6 other African countries.
Prof Naeemah Abrahams
Prof. Abrahams is a Senior Specialist Scientist in the Gender and Health Research Unit, which has been acknowledged as world leaders on gender-based violence and health research. When Prof. Abrahams started gender-related research 18 years ago, gender was trivialised in the health field. However, by working with colleagues such as Prof. Rachel Jewkes, they ensured that their use of rigorous research methods and publications in leading journals, such as Science and the Lancet, and publishing in the World Health Organisation Report, contributed to the change that we see today. In recognition of her research, she has received two honorary appointments: an Honorary Associated Professor with the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Health Sciences in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, as well as Extraordinary Professor with the University of the Western Cape, Faculty of Community Health Sciences in the School of Public Health. Over the past 20 years, Prof. Abrahams has made significant contributions to and provided leadership on gender-based violence research. Her PhD research measured male perpetration of violence against intimate partners. At the time, this was one of the first studies globally to focus on men. Naeemah has also made unique contributions to the research on intimate femicide in South Africa and globally, developing a method that has been hailed internationally. Naeemah’s contributions now mean that her research expertise in femicide, sexual violence and sexual assault is now recognised globally.
Prof Graeme Meintjes
Prof. Meintjes is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine and a member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) at UCT. He is an adult infectious diseases physician who completed his specialisation in internal medicine and infectious diseases at UCT and jointly established a busy infectious diseases referral unit at GF Jooste Hospital in Manenberg in 2004. Prof. Meintjes is an exceptional mid-career researcher and the findings of his research have played a seminal role in defining clinical approaches and broadening understanding of a condition that has recently emerged (TB-IRIS), and improving treatment strategies for crytococcal meningitis. His work has also informed evolving treatment guidelines for ART in South Africa and internationally. For example, Prof. Meintjes was the lead investigator of a pioneering randomised placebo-controlled trial of prednisone for the treatment of TB-IRIS. This was the first, and to date, the only clinical trial to test a treatment strategy for IRIS. The trial findings provide the evidence-base for treating TB-IRIS globally, and have impacted national and international guidelines including the NIH-CDCHIVMA/IDSA Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents. In collaboration with the International Network for the Study of HIV-associated IRIS, Prof. Meintjes developed international consensus case definitions for TB-IRIS. These case definitions have played a major role in standardising research approaches to this condition, and have also assisted clinicians in the field in making diagnoses of TB-IRIS.
Prof Kelly Chibale
Prof. Chibale currently holds the DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Drug Discovery. Over the past five years, Prof. Chibale has made seminal contributions that have impacted on health, especially in developing countries. Most significantly, he led a project team that discovered the first clinical candidate, for any disease, researched on African soil by an African drug discovery centre. This team discovered a clinical candidate molecule with the potential to be used as part of a single-dose cure for malaria. The discovery of this malaria drug candidate was mentioned in the State of the Nation Address given by President Jacob Zuma earlier this year. The discovery, and Professor Chibale were featured this year in Nature Medicine under the headline ‘Made in Africa’, and received the 2012 Medicines for Malaria Venture Project of the Year award. Over the past 10 years, Prof. Chibale has been acknowledged for his outstanding contributions to science, technology and innovation, specifically being recognised for establishing Africa’s first integrated modern drug discovery centre – the H3-D Centre at UCT – and for establishing various modern technology platforms for the discovery of potential medicines. In this context, the pharmaceutical company Novartis has signed a collaboration agreement with UCT for H3-D to work with the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. This will go a long way to bridging the gap between basic science and clinical research, with the aim of advancing innovative medicines that treat African patients.
Gold Medal Winners
Prof Andre Kengne
Prof Kengne is Director: Non-Communicable Diseases Research Unit at the MRC. Prof Kengne is an established researcher on chronic diseases with a major focus on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. His leading role on these conditions in Africa is well-recognised and his expertise at the global level is increasingly acknowledged. Internationally, Prof Kengne has made a significant contribution to improving the understanding, quantification and reduction of cardiovascular diseases risk in people with diabetes. For example, he has contributed to the development of a new and improved model for estimating cardiovascular disease risk in contemporary populations with diabetes. This model, which was the highlight of the World Diabetes Congress in 2011, has been made available as a handheld or online calculator, and is being promoted in several countries around the world. Over the past two years, Prof Kengne has co-led a programme of research that has provided unparalleled evidence on the increasing burden of cardiometabolic disease among mixed ancestry South Africans. The results of this work are increasing awareness on the need to improve prevention of cardiometabolic diseases in this population. Some of this work is being used as the background of the African chapter in the forthcoming edition of the World Diabetes Atlas by the International Diabetes Federation. Prof Kengne has co-authored over 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers, several conference abstracts and book chapters. He currently chairs the taskforce on Nutrition of the Pan-African Society of Cardiology and is member of many scientific bodies and committees.
Prof Keertan Dheda
Prof. Dheda is a professor of respiratory medicine, and Head of Division of Pulmonology, Department of Medicine at UCT and at Groote Schuur Hospital. During his research career, Prof. Dheda has made substantial contributions to the management and control of drug-resistant TB in South Africa. He has been internationally recognised for this by being awarded the 2010 International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Scientific Award. XDR-TB threatens to destabilise TB control in South Africa and several other regions of the world. However, there is hardly any data on which to base policy recommendations. The work that Prof. Dheda has published in the Lancet, together which other research results have shaped clinical definitions for treatment failure in XDR-TB, provided specific guidelines on how XDR-TB patients should be managed, and provided valuable data that informs and guides management decisions by the national TB programmes from resource-limited settings. His work that demonstrated an increased risk for health-care workers developing drug-resistant TB makes it imperative that governments now take immediate measures to provide the resources required to enable all hospitals and clinics to implement the recommended WHO infection control procedures, which will go a long way to protect health-care workers and their patients from acquiring MDR/XDR-TG. Prof. Dheda’s report also heightens the urgency for all health facilities and laboratories to be equipped with the newer diagnostic testing platforms, so that all patients and health-care workers can be rapidly identified and appropriately isolated to minimise the risk of transmission within hospitals and the community. He led a team, which published their findings in The Lancet showing that placing new rapid TB diagnostic technology (Gene Xpert) in a clinic was feasible when testing is performed by a nurse and this approach led to rapid diagnosis of drug-resistant TB and more patients being placed on treatment. The findings suggest that a health care worker-led diagnostic strategy could be useful to fight the disease in TB hotspots in the country.
Platinum Medal Winners
Prof Shabir Madhi
Prof. Madhi is Director: National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Director: MRC’s Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit, Professor of Vaccinology: Wits, and holds a DST/NRF Chair: Vaccine Preventable Diseases. Prof. Madhi is an internationally recognised clinical-scientist in his field of vaccinology and respiratory and meningeal pathogens. Prof. Madhi’s involvement in pneumococcal conjugate vaccines and on rotavirus vaccine studies has contributed to the WHO advocating the importance of these vaccines in improving child health and recommending their routine use in developing countries, including in settings with a high prevalence of HIV infection. This research also contributed to advocacy that led the South African government to be the first in Africa to introduce these vaccines into the public immunisation programme since 2009, an initiative which is expected to save the lives of approximately 6000-7000 South African children annually, particularly in communities with limited access to curative health-care facilities. His work has been particularly relevant to sub-Saharan African countries with their high burden of HIV-infection, where he has established himself as a leader in research on the effect of childhood HIV on the epidemiology of pneumonia and the safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of vaccines for this vulnerable population. Prof. Madhi has made and continues to make a huge contribution to improving child health not only in South Africa but throughout Africa and in developing countries. Prof. Madhi’s international standing is such that he was listed among the ‘100 World Class South Africans’ in the City Press in April of this year, a list that has included luminaries such as past presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
Prof Eric Bateman
Emeritus Professor Bateman is Director: UCT Lung Institute, and honorary consultant at the Division of Pulmonology at UCT. He has an outstanding record as a clinician scientist in South Africa in the field of pulmonology and related topics. He is highly regarded internationally and is in great demand as a speaker, collaborator and consultant in working groups. Prof. Bateman is an international leader in research areas of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in developing countries, and in research and implementing methods for improving primary health care for chronic and infectious diseases in resource-poor settings. Prof. Bateman showed his remarkable leadership qualities in raising funds for and building the UCT Lung Institute on the Faculty of Health Sciences Campus, and has run it for the last 13 years funded entirely from research. Even more remarkable has been its growth and research output under his directorship and research leadership. The motivation behind his development of the Lung Institute was to engage in population-wide interventions to improve respiratory care in South Africa. Over the past 13 years, what began as an intervention for assisting frontline clinicians in the integrated care of chronic respiratory diseases has developed into Primary Care 101. Developed over the past three years, this has now been accepted by the Minister of Health as the centre piece of his rejuvenation project for primary care clinics and is being rolled out country-wide. Prof. Bateman’s full research record confirms Professor Bateman’s status as a clinician-researcher whose lifetime contribution to medical research both nationally and globally has been remarkable in its breadth and depth.
Prof Paul van Helden
Prof Paul van Helden obtained his doctorate in Biochemistry in 1978 and has been at Stellenbosch University since 1979 where he is presently professor and head of the division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics and also Director of the MRC Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology, as well as Director of the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research. He has been awarded the Vice-Chancellors’ award for Excellence in Research (Univ. Stellenbosch 2000); the Gold Medal Award, South African Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 2001; the MRC Silver Medal for Research in 2004; the NSTF Award for Outstanding Contribution to Science and Technology in the RSA over 5 years in 2005; and the Gold Medal of ASSAF in 2009. He has published over 300 research publications and has extensive global networks. He was recently listed as having the 4th highest impact in TB research publishing by ThomsonReuters. Prof van Helden describes his efforts as attempting to develop a continuum of activities to span the divide between basic research and clinical practice. Molecular TB research at CMCB and Stellenbosch University was initiated by Prof van Helden in 1989, with one PhD student. His main research interest is tuberculosis ranging from diagnostics, through immunology and genetics, to clinical trials and veterinary TB. This interest has grown and is now a major focus area of the division and faculty and sole focus of the CMCB. Apart from generating a large sample bank which some have described as an “international heritage site”, he has achieved many firsts, such as the description of reinfection and mixed infection as a real and considerable phenomenon in TB. HIs work showed that one can use modern molecular biology in a developing country to good effect, particularly for diagnosis of drug resistant TB, and his team paved the way for the introduction of such technologies, now being used in state diagnostic labs. He also led the team to develop useable technologies for speciation of the M. tuberculosis complex and other members of the genus Mycobacterium, which were used in a huge prevalence survey in the RSA and Zambia recently. His work has placed Stellenbosch University at position 20 in the top 20 research institutions globally in TB research. He has been ranked 4th globally in terms of total impact for TB research, Prof van Helden has built up a world-class research centre focussing on tuberculosis. This has been achieved by allowing each member of the team guidance but freedom to achieve in their own niche. Many of the people in the CMCB are now globally renowned in their own right. Over the last few years he has moved his name from last authorship to allow for building the CV’s of group leaders who then become the senior author. This is essential to build capacity and allow succession. There is no doubt that Paul van Helden has put South African research on the TB world map.
Prof Malegapuru William Makgoba
Prof Makgoba has made an outstanding and lasting contribution to South African medical science, holding up and enhancing the reputation of science in this country and in the international community, and encouraging and supporting young scientists. He continues this service now as Vice-President for Planning and Review of the Paris-based International Council for Science. Prof Makgoba’s contributions to medical science are vast and numerous. He served as President of the MRC during the difficult years of AIDS denialism in South Africa.
Associate Professor Helen McIlleron
Dr McIlleron is associate professor in Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Cape Town. Together with her research partners, she evaluates the pharmacokinetics (PK) and pharmacodyanamics (PD) of antituberculosis and antiretroviral drugs in east, west and southern Africa. She has pioneered evaluation of PK/PD and pharmacogenetic relationships in large populations of patients with TB, which allows definition of target drug concentration thresholds. Her work provided key evidence to support the World Health Organization’s recently revised dosing guidelines for the treatment of childhood tuberculosis, and her studies in HIV infected adults and children with tuberculosis have informed national policies and international guidelines for antiretroviral treatment in patients on rifampicin-based TB treatment.
Doctor Musa M. Mhlanga
Dr Mhlanga heads the Laboratory for Gene Expression & Biophysics and holds a joint appointment at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Lisbon, Portugal. He has sought to extend the molecular tools we have for protein to mRNA and thus to create a more complete understanding of basic cell biology. It is from this basic understanding that the ability to manipulate biological systems, thus synthetic biology, can emerge. He has brought his extensive experience working with advanced imaging and microscopy tools to bear on one of the most fundamental questions in cell biology: understanding how genes are regulated and the role pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, play in this.
Professor Makama Andries Monyeki
Makama Andries Monyeki is a professor in the School of Biokinetics, Recreation and Sport Science at the Faculty of Health Sciences of the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University. Professor Monyeki currently has held a Y2 NRF rating since 2008 and received the Janssen-Cilag Award for a best research article as well as a certificate for the young researcher in 2003. He is a principal investigator (PI), of the NRF- and MRC-funded self-initiated Physical Activity and Health Determinants Longitudinal Study (PAHLS) in adolescents attending schools in the Tlokwe Local Municipality. Professor Monyeki, in his career as a lecturer and a researcher, contributed immensely to knowledge in the area of body composition (i.e. undernutrition, overweight or obesity), physical activity epidemiology, and health-related fitness in children and adolescents.
Associate Professor Thomas Scriba
Dr Scriba is associate professor at the University of Cape Town and Deputy Director of Immunology at the South African TB Vaccine Initiative (SATVI), a large research group focusing on development of new tuberculosis vaccines. He leads a clinical immunopathogenesis of TB laboratory and has led the immunology, analysis for more than 10 clinical trials of novel TB vaccines, conducted in a setting highly endemic for TB. He is member of several international working groups on biomarkers and vaccine immunology, and is actively involved in postgraduate training. He received bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Stellenbosch and a DPhil from Oxford University, and trained in paediatric and clinical immunology in tuberculosis and vaccinology at SATVI in Cape Town as a postdoctoral fellow.
Doctor Grant Theron
Dr Theron is a senior scientist in the Lung Infection and Immunity Unit in the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town. His research is on tuberculosis and drug resistance, which represent a public health crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. He has focused on the design and field evaluation of improved diagnostics for TB. Dr Theron recently led a landmark, four-country randomised controlled trial of the GeneXpert test for TB. He is also a recipient of the Young Investigator Scientific Prize awarded by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, and he was selected as one of the top 100 young south africans by the Mail and Guardian newspaper.
Professor Alan Christoffels
Professor Christoffels, is the director of the MRC’s Bioinformatics Unit, SANBI at the University of the Western Cape. He contributes significantly to bioinformatics training via UWC where he is a SARChi incumbent. Since 2009, Prof. Christoffels has graduated 11 PhD and 10 MSc students at UWC, all from disadvantaged backgrounds. In 2010, Prof. Christoffels introduced a bioinformatics internship, held every December, for BSc graduates of the University of the Western Cape. He coordinated 13 genomics workshops at SANBI: these courses were, so far, attended by 744 South African students/researchers. In 2010, he introduced a bioinformatics internship, held every December, for BSc graduates of the University of the Western Cape. Prof. Christoffels's continental research support includes hosting bioinformatics workshops for African biomedical researchers.
Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim
Prof. Quarraisha Abdool Karim is the chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council’s Prevention Task Team and is the vice-president of the African Academy of Science (southern African region). She was the founding national director of the South African National HIV/AIDS and STD programme in the Mandela government. She is associate scientific director at CAPRISA and Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University in New York. Through her pioneering scientific work in HIV and AIDS, she has empowered and continues to empower millions of women, particularly in rural South Africa. She is the recipient of several prestigious international and national awards including the 2013 African Union Kwame Nkrumah award for Science and Technology, the 2012 Prize for Medical Sciences from The World Academy of Sciences and the Order of Mapungubwe awarded by the President of South Africa in 2013.
Professor Rachel Jewkes
Prof. Jewkes is currently the director of the MRC’s Gender and Health Research Unit. She is a former acting vice-president of the South African Medical Research Council and is an honorary professor at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health. She is an A-rated scientist. She is secretary of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative and the director of the ‘What Works to Prevent Violence Global Programme’, which seeks to advance knowledge on prevention of violence against women and girls in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. She is a member of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Injury and Violence Prevention and Control. Her work has spanned epidemiology, anthropology, clinical research, and research in the health, education and justice sectors.
Professor Charles Rotimi
Prof. Rotimi is the chief of the Metabolic, Cardiovascular and Inflammatory Disease Genomics Branch and the director of the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health in the National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH. His lab conducts genomic and epidemiologic studies that explore the patterns and determinants of metabolic disorders with particular emphasis on African ancestry populations. He is a member of the Executive and Scientific Committee for the International Federation of Human Genetics Societies and the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) Council. Professor Rotimi is also the founding president of the African Society of Human Genetics (AfSHG).
Professor Gregory Hussey
Prof. Hussey is director of Vaccines for Africa Initiative, and director of Clinical Research Centre at the University of Cape Town. He also serves as senior research advisor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT and he has been an ad-hoc World Health Organization (WHO) consultant for the past 20 years, and serves on a number of their influential committees. He was the founding director of South Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (2000–2009), and developed this into the leading TB vaccine clinical trial site globally. He was also the first director of the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine (2006–2010), now recognised as one of the foremost research groups on the African continent. His current Vaccines for Africa Initiative has established a significant footprint on the African continent and focuses on translation of research evidence into health policy and practice.
Professor Robin Wood
Prof. Wood is currently emeritus professor of Medicine at UCT, honary professor at LSTM&H London University and a visiting scientist at Harvard Medical School. His work in the area of HIV/AIDS extends to before the identification of the causative virus, first encountering it while practicing in Zambia in the early 1980s. As a fellow at Stanford, his research focused on early HIV therapies and the development of HI-viral quantitation. He headed the first HIV clinic in the Western Cape and researched antiretroviral combination therapy. In 1997, he became head of the Department of Medicine at the New Somerset Hospital and associate professor at UCT.
Professor Hoosen (Jerry) Coovadia
Prof. Hoosen (Jerry) Coovadia is currently a director at MatCH Health Systems (Maternal, Adolescent and Child Health). He is also the chairperson of the Board of the KZN Children’s Hospital Trust and a commissioner for the National Planning Commission for the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa. He also holds the title of emeritus professor of paediatrics and Child Health and emeritus Victor Daitz professor of HIV/Aids Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He has received a number of awards including the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights (co-recipient with Judge Edwin Cameron), The Order of the Star of S.A for Contributions to Democracy & Health presented by former President Nelson Mandela, the 2013 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the HIV Congress in India, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Research Foundation.
Doctor Anthony S. Fauci
Dr Fauci, the director of NIAID oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. He was one of the architects of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has already been responsible for saving millions of lives throughout the developing world. Dr Fauci has contributed enormously to our understanding of the pathogenesis and treatment of immune-mediated and infectious diseases. Dr Fauci has made seminal contributions to the understanding of how HIV destroys the immune system, making those infected with HIV susceptible to deadly infections, and he was instrumental in developing highly effective strategies for the therapy of patients living with HIV/AIDS, and has supported research into developing an HIV vaccine.
Professor Linda Richter
Professor Salim Abdool Karim
Professor Dan Stein
Professor Lynn Morris
Professor Rob Warren
Professor Gary Maartens
Professor Nulda Beyers
Professor Robert Wilkinson
Professor Anne Gottberg
Dr Jonathan Peter
Professor Penny Moore is an Honorary Senior Scientist at the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa - CAPRISA. She is also a Research Chair in Virus-Host Dynamics and Reader at WITS, and National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS). Professor’s Moore’s research over the past decade has provided a roadmap for the development of broadly neutralizing antibodies required for an HIV vaccine. She is internationally recognised for her research defining the immunological “arms race” that leads to such antibodies. Her research team showed, for the first time, how the evolving HIV swarm in infected donors plays a major role in the evolution of these broadly neutralizing antibodies. Moore’s research, focused in areas most impacted by the HIV epidemic, has thus significantly contributed to HIV the vaccine field. She is a founding member of the South African Young Academy of Science; an NRF B3 rated scientist; a full Member of the American Society for virology and a Member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa.
Professor Bavesh Kana is the Head of the Wits University node of the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research; an Associate Professor in the School of Pathology at the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences; Research Associate at CAPRISA and a Member of the BRICS TB Research Network. Professor Kana studies tuberculosis with a focus on identifying new drug targets and biomarkers to monitor treatment responses and risk of TB disease recurrence. His work attempts to address fundamental questions regarding pathogenesis and clinical manifestation of tuberculosis, with a specific emphasis on studying bacteria that are difficult to treat using antibiotics. He was awarded the CEO Titan Award for South Africa and the SADC Region and the African Continent; the WITS Enterprise Innovators Award. He was also appointed as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Early Career Scientist and selected as one of the Top 200 Young South Africans by the Mail and Guardian. Professor Kana has been admitted to the Academy of Science of South Africa.
Dr Nesri Padayatchi is an Epidemiologist and Deputy Director at the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa - CAPRISA, she is also an Honourable Lecturer at the School of Public Health at the University of KwaZulu Natal. She has more than 30 years clinical trial and research experience in the management of TB and related co-infections, with a special interest in Drug Resistant TB. Dr Padayatchi is the Principal Investigator and co-Principal Investigator of self-initiated TB-HIV clinical trials, and has published in this field in peer-reviewed journals. She is a TB activist and her vision is to reduce the suffering of patients with drug resistant TB. Dr Padayatchi served as the South African Principal Investigator for the Columbia University-Southern African Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Programme; the South African National and Provincial Advisory Boards for MDR –TB as well as the International Union against TB and Lung Diseases Ethics Advisory Group. She sits on the Board of the South African HIV Clinicians Society and has been an ASSAf member since 2014. She is also advisor for the India TB Research Consortium. Dr Padayatchi has mentored over 100 undergraduate and post graduate students.
Professor Bronwyn Myers is a Chief specialist scientist in the Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Use Research Unit at the South African Medical Research Council. She is also an Honorary Professor at Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT. She is a clinical psychologist with an internationally competitive clinical research portfolio focused on developing, testing and implementing new interventions for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental and physical health problems in community and health settings. Her research aims to reduce the large treatment gap that exists in low-and-middle-income countries and to improve the quality of life for vulnerable, underserved populations. Professor Bronwyn Myers has successfully managed large grants and disseminated results in the form of academic publications and via translating research findings into practice and policy improvements. She has published more than 130 peer-reviewed journal articles; with an h-index of 24. Her research findings have led to minimum standards and clinical guidelines being developed for South African MNS services, MNS interventions being implemented in emergency services. Her expertise in mental health and substance use disorders services research has been acknowledged through invitations to participate in international reference groups on HIV and injecting drug use, WHO working groups on the strengthening of global substance abuse treatment services and the scientific advisory board for Harm Reduction International. Professor Bronwyn Myers is the recipient of International Congress of Psychology’s change fellowship for research with a social impact.
Award for Developing Capacity in Challenging circumstances
Professor Zodwa Dlamini is the current Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Engagements at Mangosuthu University of Technology. She is also a full Professor in Molecular Medicine and her specialty is on molecular oncogenomics. She is an academic executive with postdoctoral experience encompassing undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral teaching and supervision with extensive research experience spanning both historically advantaged and disadvantaged higher education institutions. She has a sustained international scientific standing, evidenced by sustained publications in international journals. Professor Dlamini is a distinguished Member of the Council of Scientific Advisers of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology; a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine a Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and a Member of the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Research Outputs Main Evaluation Panel. Professor Dlamini’s research interest lie in understanding the molecular basis of HIV-related cancers and the discovery of molecular markers for precision prevention and targets for the development of new therapeutics. She served as Deputy Chairperson of the Board of the South African Medical Research Council.
Eunice Seekoe Award for Developing Capacity in Challenging circumstances
Professor Eunice Seekoe is the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Fort Hare. She is Director of Albertina Sisulu Executive Leadership Programme in Health and the Vice Chairperson of South African FAIMER Regional Institution. She sits on the Editorial Board member of the Journal of Nursing Midwifery as well as University of Fort Hare Papers. Her research areas of expertise lie in Mentoring for Sustainable Rural Community Resilience; Mentoring and Leadership; Health Services Quality and Patients Satisfaction as well as Policy Evaluation. She was the founder of the Academic Leadership Development Academy in 2011; she won the Business Woman Association Achievers Award and received the University of Free State Chancellor’s Distinguished Award (cum laude category) in 2016.
Professor Soraya Seedat is Executive head at the Department of Psychiatry at Stellenbosch University and is a distinguished Professor of psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University. In her capacity as Research Chair in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, she manages the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Research Programme which includes of a large cohort of masters, PhD and postdoctoral students and clinical staff. Professor Seedat also manages a South African Medical Research Council Flagship Study - (SHARED ROOTS) as well as the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Epidemiological Research Study. In addition, she co-directs the South African Medical Research Council’s Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders. She has received a number of accolades throughout her career, but in the last five years has been awarded with the Chancellor’s Award for Research by Stellenbosch University in 2017, the Vice-Rector’s Award for Researchers in 2016, an award for Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, also in 2016, the Rector’s Award for Outstanding Research in 2015 and the Distinguished Women in Science Award by the Department of Science and Technology in 2013.
Professor Anna-Lise Williamson holds a Research Chair in Vaccinology at the University of Cape Town. She is internationally recognised for her work in vaccinology and the development of new vaccines as well as for her research in the field of human papillomavirus – HPV. She lead the MRC funded programme that that got two locally developed HIV vaccines into clinical trials and continues to work on novel HIV vaccines. Professor Williamson’s present research is aimed at providing data to support HPV vaccine introduction in South Africa, as well as understanding the factors influencing infection and persistence of HPV. She has also developed a specific interest in the impact of HIV infection on HPV and has established her lab as an important world centre of expertise in the area. She was elected as a Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa in 2004; Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa in 2005; and a Fellow of the University of Cape Town in 2009. In 2010 Professor Williamson was awarded the Cancer Association of South Africa CANSA AG Oettlé Memorial Medal for work on HPV, a leading cause of cervical cancer.
Professor Gerhard Walzl is the Executive Head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University. Professor Walzl’s research focuses on the immunology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) infection and in particular host biomarkers, including diagnostic markers, markers of TB treatment response and markers of protective immunity against MTB. He leads the Stellenbosch University Immunology Research Group, part of several international consortia and conducts recruitment of large cohorts of participants with well-characterized MTB infection and disease phenotypes to search for biomarkers of TB. He is also Head of the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Department of Biomedical Sciences at Stellenbosch University. Professor Walzl is Distinguished Professor at Stellenbosch University; Director at the National Research Foundation/Department of Science and Technology Center of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research. He was bestowed the Rector’s Oustanding Research Award in 2009 and again in 2012 at Stellenbosch University.
Professor Maureen Coetzee is Medical entomologist in the field of malaria mosquito control. She is a Research Professor and DST/NRF Research Chair in Medical Entomology & Vector Control at the School of Pathology at Wits University. She is a member of the Malaria Policy Advisory Committee of the Global Malaria Programme at the World Health Organization and member of the South African Malaria Elimination Committee at the National Department of Health. She is also the founder of the Wits Research Institute for Malaria at the School of Pathology at WITS University’s Faculty of Health Sciences. Her work over the years has gained her many accolades, including a Certificate of Distinction awarded by the Council for International Congresses of Entomology in 2016, a L’Oreal Award for “Distinguished Woman Scientist of the Year” in 2015, the Elsdon Dew Medal, bestowed by the Parasitological Society of South Africa in 2014, the John Belkin Memorial Award by the American Mosquito Control Association in 2012 and the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Regional Woman Scientists Award in 2011. Professor Coetzee says that the training and mentoring of the next generation of medical entomologists is the only way to guarantee the ultimate aim of malaria eradication. To this end, she has trained and mentored a total of 63 post-graduates from 13 African countries in the last 25 years, 65% of whom are black and 44% are women. Many of her mentees have gone on to run their own research programmes and some work for the World Health Organization or various national malaria control programmes.
Professor Charles Feldman is a Specialist Physician and a Distinguished Professor of Pulmonology at WITS University. His research expertise are in the field of community-acquired pneumonia and in particular pneumococcal pneumonia. His research is translational and includes both clinical and basic research activity and is mainly undertaken as part of large multicentre, international collaborations with international experts in the field of community-acquired pneumonia from all regions of the world. He is an NRF A-rated scientist who was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Thoracic Society, Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa in 2016 and elected as a Foundation Fellow of the European Respiratory Society in 2014. He also received the premier Vice Chancellors Research Award from WITS in 2009. Professor Feldman has sat on several review panels for the SAMRC and was appointed onto the SAMRC Board for two terms.
Special Award for Contribution to public health surveillance and research
Professor Lucille Blumberg is a Deputy Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, of the National Health Laboratory Service, and is currently head of the Public Health Surveillance and Response Division. She is also medical consultant to the Emerging Pathogens Centre on rabies [rebies] and viral haemorrhagic fevers. She has received a number of accolades for her work including the Southern African Society for Veterinary Epi-demio-logy and Preventive Medicine Annual Epidemiology Prize for her contributions to society, the Paul Harris Award in 2014; the World Small Animal Veterinary Association One Health Award. She is registered as Specialist Medical Microbiologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa; registered, through peer review, as a Fellow of the Faculty of Travel Medicine of the Royal College of Medicine of Glasgow; and she is also registered, through peer review, as an Infectious Diseases Specialist with the College of Medicine of South Africa.
Professor Novel Chegou
Professor Novel Chegou is a scientist at the South African Medical Research Council’s Center for TB Research, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, at Stellenbosch University. He is an Associate Professor and co-leads the diagnostic biomarker research efforts of the Immunology Research Group. He began his training as a Medical Laboratory Scientist in Cameroon. Prof Chegou’s research work mainly focuses on the discovery of biomarkers for the diagnosis of TB disease, and monitoring of the response to treatment. He is particularly interested in the development of simple field-friendly point-of-care diagnostics for the rapid diagnosis of TB, as well as monitoring of the response to treatment in resource-constrained settings. His work over the years has earned him many accolades, including the "Emerging Research Talent" Young Researcher Award by UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit, in Geneva, Switzerland. Most recently, he was named a finalist in the 2019 National Science and Technology Forum Awards in the category: TW Kambule-NSTF Awards.
Prof Yahya Choonara
Professor Yahya Choonara is a Pharmacist by profession and holds various positions including Chair and Head of the Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at Wits University. He is also a Principal Researcher at the Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform and Co-Director of the Syndicate, Wits Health Consortium. Early in his career, he was a recipient of the SAMRC’s research funding as a Postgraduate Researcher and Postdoc and as a Principal Investigator on the Self-Initiated Research grant. Choonara’s research interests and expertise covers, among others, areas of Pharmaceutics; Drug delivery, targeting and bio-availability; Nanomedicine; Biomaterials; and Molecular pharmaceutics. Due to his notable experience and extensive research, he is no stranger to the red carpet – he has won several prestigious awards. In 2019 he received the TW Kambule - National Science and Technology Forum Award and the Top Intellectual Property Creator. He also received the National Award for Best Research Publication in Pharmaceutics at the 33rd Annual Conference of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences of South Africa and Wits Innovators Forum International and Prolific Inventor Awards.
Prof Craig Kinnear
Professor Craig Kinnear joined the South African Medical Research Council in 2006 as a Junior Scientist. His hardwork and dedication saw him grow through the ranks. Today he occupies the position of Specialist Scientist at the SAMRC’s Centre for TB Research. In addition, he is currently the Head of the SAMRC Genomics Centre. Professor Kinnear obtained his PhD at Stellenbosch University in 2007, which focused on identifying novel genetic predisposing factors involved in the pathogenesis of obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. Some of his research interests include Human Genetics; Primary Immuno-deficiency Disorders; Host Pre-disposition to TB; Cardiovascular Genetics; Parkinson’s Disease and Neurodevelopment. He is a recipient of research grants from the National Health Laboratory Service, the National Research Foundation and the U.S. NIH.
Prof Nazir Ismail
A Pathologist and Clinical Microbiologist by profession, Professor Nazir Ismail is a man who wears different hats. He heads the Centre for TB at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the WHO Supranational TB Reference Laboratory, South Africa. He is also a Councillor at the College of Medicine South Africa. He is a Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Pretoria and also an Honorary Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Wits University. Professor Ismail also sits on several Independent Review Panels and Collaborating Centres at the South African Medical Research Council including the SHIP programme. In addition, he is a recipient of the joint SA-UK-MRC Newton Fund. His extensive research in TB, Microbiology, Molecular Epidemiology and Transmission and Public Health Epidemiology have earned him roles and memberships in various professional bodies. He is a member of the National Clinical Advisory Committee; the South African TB Think Tank Steering Committee; the TB South Africa Project, World Health Organisation TB Task Force; Critical Path to TB Drug Regimens, Washington – Surveillance Workgroup and the Aurum Scientific Advisory Committee.
Prof Lynette Denny
Professor Lynette Denny is a Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre – a SAMRC Extramural Research Unit based at the University of Cape Town. She is also Head of Department of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the UCT / Groote Schuur Hospital. Throughout her career, she has devoted her energies to reducing the risk of cervical cancer in low resource settings, both in terms of her clinical and research work. Her work has been published widely on this subject thus proving to be influential worldwide. In recognition of her remarkable work on cervical cancer prevention among disadvantaged communities and general focus on gynaecological cancer management, Prof Denny’s work has previously been acknowledged through several prestigious local and international awards, including the South African Medical Association Award for Extra-Ordinary Service to Medicine and the Global Humanitarian Award by the International Gynaecologic Cancer Society. She is also winner of the International Agency for Research on Cancer Medal of Honour Award.
Prof Robert Pattinson
Professor Robert Pattinson has been the Director of the SAMRC/University of Pretoria Maternal and Infant Health Care Strategies Research Unit since 1998. This is one of the oldest Extramural Research Units of the South African Medical Research Council. He is also an Emeritus Professor at the University of Pretoria where he previously served as Clinical Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. He serves on the National Committee for the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths for which he edits all the reports and served on the National Perinatal Morbidity and Mortality Committee in South Africa. As a qualified Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Prof Pattinson has a strong research focus in areas of maternal, fetal and infant health. He led the team that developed and scaled-up the Essential Steps into Obstetric Emergencies programme - the programme has been scaled-up into all districts in South Africa. Pattinson is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf); winner of the Discovery Health Excellence Award and a Fellow Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Prof Pattinson attributes most of his professional growth to the SAMRC – his association with the organisation dates back to 1987, when he first received the SAMRC Post Graduate Bursary which he says was a defining moment for his career.
Prof Caroline Tiemessen
Professor Caroline Tiemessen is a virologist and researcher. She is Head of Cell Biology Research Laboratory in the Centre for HIV and STIs in the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa and a Research Professor at WITS University. Her research interests include the study of HIV vaccines and HIV cure (paediatric and adult) with a focus on natural resistance models which include maternal-infant HIV-1 transmission for studying protective immunity to HIV-1, and the study of long term non-progressors and elite controllers to understand natural attenuation of disease progression. A more recent and major focus of her research efforts is in the field of paediatric HIV cure – this encompasses studies of the viral reservoir and host biomarkers in the context of very early ARV treatment of infants as part of the LEOPARD clinical trial being conducted in Johannesburg, and detailed exploration of the recent case of the HIV-infected South African child in long-term remission without antiretrovirals. In 2013, she was awarded the DST/NRF HIV Vaccine Translational Research Chair in the Faculty of Health Sciences at WITS University, and in the same year, she was elected a member ASSAf. Most recently, she received the 2018 Congress of Business and Economics Innovation Award for performing (together with other researchers), the world’s first living donor liver transplant from an HIV positive parent to her HIV negative child.
Prof Keertan Dheda
Professor Keertan Dheda is Head of both the Centre for Lung Infection and Immunity – UCT Lung Institute and the Division of Pulmonology at the University of Cape Town. Dheda has a long-standing relationship with the South African medical Research Council having received the SAMRC career development award in 2007 and he has also been the principal investigator on several multi-million-rand grants awarded by the SAMRC. He is no stranger to the SAMRC Scientific Merit Awards – in 2013 he was the winner of the Gold Scientific Achievement award. To add the cherry on top, he recently got appointed as Director of SAMRC/UCT Centre for the Study of Antimicrobial Resistance Research Unit - one of the SAMRC’s new seven Extramural Research Units launched early this year. An NRF A - Rated scientist, Dheda’s his contribution to science is described within the context of two of his major research focus areas: Diagnosis of TB and Molecular epidemiology and management of drug-resistant TB. He has published over 280 manuscripts in PubMed-listed international peer reviewed journals, with over 40 of them being citation classics (more than 100 citations) including 4 first or senior author original publications in The Lancet. Over the years, his work has never gone unrecognized - he has been the recipient of several prestigious awards including the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Scientific Award; the 2018 European Union-funded EDCTP Scientific Leadership Award and South African Clinician Society Scientific Health Excellence Award, to mention a few. He serves on several national and international academic and advisory bodies and editorial board of journals such as the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine and Lancet Respiratory Diseases amongst others. He holds 5 patents related to new TB control technologies. Some of his many international recognition includes being Professor of Mycobacteriology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK; a Visiting Professor at University College London, and he is the immediate past president of the South African Thoracic Society.
Prof Debbie Bradshaw
Professor Debbie Bradshaw has recently retired as Unit Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Burden of Disease Research Unit. Bradshaw served the organisation for 41 years where she started as a Junior Statistician in the Institute for Bio-statistics. She later moved to the Centre for Epidemiology in Southern Africa and started developing a research programme investigating mortality trends – this grew into a research unit which we today know as the Burden of Disease Research Unit, which is focuses on describing the burden of disease and improving information on the health status in the country. Trained as a biostatistician, she became an epidemiologist who has built her career around understanding mortality patterns and describing population health. Bradshaw first completed her BSc in Mathematics, then proceeding her PhD studies with Oxford University in the Department of Bio-mathematics. She is an Honorary Professor at University of Cape Town in the Department of Public Health and Family Medicine. In order to continue conducting high quality and groundbreaking research, Bradshaw has been very instrumental in securing funding – she has been awarded grants, including but limited to, the
SAMRC Flagship Project: 2nd South African Comparative Risk Factor
Newton NCD: Evolving Risk Factors for Cancers in African Populations
Pepfar funded CDC Co-operative Agreement with SAMRC: National cause-of-death validation project (NCOD Validate), and
The Pepfar funded CDC Co-operative Agreement with SAMRC: Enhancing linkage to care for HIV in South Africa
Prof Ephriam Mokgokong
Prof Ephraim Thibedi Mokgokong is a former Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Medical University of South Africa (MEDUNSA) and a distinguished Gynaecologist and Obstetrician whose name resonates with many health professionals in South Africa. Prof Mokgokong’s journey began in 1954 when he enrolled for a BSc in Chemistry and Zoology at the University College of Fort Hare and proceeded all the way to get his PhD at the University of Natal investigating the Clinical and Biochemical features of pregnant Diabetics. Since then he has received several Honorary Doctorates from various universities including the University of Potchefstroom; University of Venda and University of Pretoria. For many years, he maintained his footprint in public health – both in academia and the public sector and this undoubtedly made him a force to be reckoned with, leading to the many roles he was assigned to. He was Vice President of the Medical and Dental Council and member of the National Cancer Association of South Africa where he was chairperson of its Education Committee. He also served on the board of the South African Blood Transfusion Service and that of the Council of The South African National Blood Service. He was also appointed by the late Honorable Dr Walter Sisulu to the South African Research and Development Trust. Even after retirement, he still makes a contribution to public health. Apart from running his Private Practice at Legae Mediclinic In Mabopane, he does part-time sessions at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Polokwane. He remains a mentor to many young and upcoming health professionals and runs outreach workshops in the Capricon Region of the Limpopo Province.
Associate Prof Claire Hoving
Prof Claire Hoving is a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Fellow in Public Health and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), South Africa and is also an Associate Professor within the Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology, University of Cape Town, South Africa. As an NRF Y-rating African and Immunologist, her ambition is to address neglected infectious diseases prevalent on this continent while empowering local scientists, especially women. Her background is in understanding the host immune response during infections prevalent in Africa such as parasites, like those causing bilharzia and Leishmaniasis and bacteria, like Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The focus of her newly established research group is on HIV-related fungal infection. Serious fungal infections continue to devastate people living with HIV and remain a leading cause of infectious-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, second only to tuberculosis. Considering the urgent need for capacity in this field, her research focuses on HIV-related fungal infection. With the increase of diseases rendering patients immunocompromised such as HIV/AIDS, the incidence of opportunistic fungal infection is increasing with detrimental effects. Therefore, the current major focus is understanding the immune response to Pneumocystis jirovecii, a common cause of pneumonia and death in patients with HIV/AIDS in Africa and which is estimated to kill over 250 000 worldwide every year.
She is a recipient of the following awards:
Carnegie Corporation: Developing Emerging Academic Leaders award
NRF Competitive support for unrated researchers
NRF Research Career Advancement award
Early Career Fellowship International CIDRI-Wellcome Trust
She says her potential as an independent scientist together with the opportunity to invest in medical mycology research in South Africa was recognized by the SAMRC through the SAMRC SIR award, adding that it marked her transition and she now has her own research team focused on this highly neglected area of research, particularly in Africa.
Prof Mpiko Ntsekhe
A Cardiologist by profession, Prof Mpiko Ntsekhe wears many hats at different times – if he is not Chair of Cardiology at the University of Cape Town, he is Head of Cardiology Services at the Groote Schuur Hospital or Director at the Mayosi Research Collaborative. He also holds a position of Vice President of the South African Heart Association, Secretary General of the South-Pan African Society of Cardiology and Chair of the South African Heart Registries (SHARE). His current areas of active research include Pericardial Disease with focus on Tuberculous Pericarditis; HIV associated Cardiovascular Disease; Therapeutic Interventions for Rheumatic Heart Disease; Novel therapeutics for Heart Failure; Strategies for the management of Acute and Chronic Ischemic Heart Disease and Dilated Cardiomyopathy. As a National Research Foundation (NRF) Rated Researcher, Prof Ntsekhe has received numerous awards in recognition of his outstanding research work. These include but not limited to: the Don Kennedy Emerging Researcher Award in 2004; the Trout CaNNeCTIN Research Fellowship Award- McMaster University in 2006; Edith Sorrel Clinical Research Fellowship from 2009 to 2011; Thuthuka NRF Research Fellowship Award in 2012; Fellow of American College of Cardiology in 2013; Member of Academy of Science of South Africa (MASSAf); Member of Sigma Xi- 2020. Prof Ntsekhe has a well-established publication track record including several book chapters, numerous peer reviewed articles in high impact journals such as Circulation, Nature Cardiology Reviews and the European Heart Journal. He is a regular reviewer for a number of prestigious journals also serves as an editoral board member for a few. He is a frequent speaker at local and international congresses and society meetings.
Dr Stephanus Malherbe
Dr Stephanus Malherbe is the Chief Medical Officer at the Stellenbosch University Biomedical Research Institute Clinical Team. As a Clinical Researcher, his fields of research and areas of expertise are around Tuberculosis Diagnostics, Tuberculosis treatment and response, Automated image analysis, Study design and Tuberculosis immunology. His pioneering work titled "Persisting positron emission tomography lesion activity and Mycobacterium tuberculosis mRNA after tuberculosis cure" was published in Nature Medicine in 2016. This innovative research formed the basis for his PhD dissertation titled "Evaluating the treatment response of pulmonary tuberculosis by 18F-FDG PET/CT scans" which he defended successfully at the end of 2016. He played a major part in the clinical studies that lead to the discovery of host transcriptomic protein signatures, which have been incorporated in point-of-care devices to use as screening tools for TB disease. If validated, would greatly streamline testing and treatment initiation. In 2017 he received the HD Brede Award for the best Tuberculosis related publication by post-graduate student in the Health Sciences.de Leon award for lecturers and the following year, he was the Finalist in clinical research excellence: South African Clinical Research Society. In 2019, he won the Young Investigator Prize, The Union (The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease). Dr Malherbe has been affiliated with the South African Medical Research Council’s Centre for Tuberculosis Research since 2013. He also received support from the SAMRC to complete his PhD, in the form of a scholarship from the Clinician Researcher Program from 2014 until 2016.
Prof Graeme Meintjes
Prof Graeme Meintjes is an adult Infectious Diseases Physician and the Second Chair and Deputy Head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT). He holds the DSI/NRF SARChI Chair in Poverty-related Infections and is a member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. He also leads the clinical platform of the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa at UCT. Together with his research group, Prof Meintjes’ focuses on the diagnosis, prevention, treatment and immunopathogenesis of conditions that affect patients with advanced HIV disease in Africa, in particular: HIV-associated tuberculosis, HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis, immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), complications of antiretroviral therapy and drug-resistant tuberculosis. Under his leadership, the group conducts clinical trials and observational cohort studies, nesting within these translational immunology studies aimed at improving understanding of disease pathogenesis – these trials have addressed critical questions relevant to management of advanced HIV in programmatic settings. They also undertake evaluation of novel diagnostics for HIV-associated tuberculosis, most recently the urine SILVAMP TB-LAM assay in collaboration with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND). An NRF B1 rated scientist, Prof Meitjies is recognised as one of the leading researchers on the topic of the IRIS internationally, his main focus being tuberculosis-associated IRIS. His group has done ground-breaking research on this frequent complication of HIV treatment. As a Principal Investigator, he led the only 2 randomised-controlled trials which demonstrated that prednisone was safe and effective as prophylaxis for TB-IRIS in high risk TB patients starting ART – to add the cherry on top, the findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2018 and have influenced international clinical practice. Due to his notable experience and extensive research, he is no stranger to the science red carpet – he has won several prestigious awards – in 2013 alone, he won the Medical Research Council of South Africa Young Scientist Award and the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) award for rising star African scientist. In 2014/15 he was a finalist for the National Science and Technology Forum TW Kambule Award. He was elected Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and Fellow of the University of Cape Town in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
Prof Janusz T. Paweska
Of his many titles, Prof Janusz T. Paweska is the Head of the Centre for Emerging, Zoonotic and Parasitic Diseases, National Institute for Communicable Diseases of the National Health Laboratory Service. He is also an Associate Professor (Reader) at the University of Witwatersrand, School of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences. As a veterinarian who specialized in medical and veterinary virology and epidemiology, he’s got expertise in the field of emerging and re-merging zoonotic pathogens of epidemic-prone potential, including highly specialized diagnostics, aiding patient management and outbreak control measures, epidemiological studies, biosurveillance of zoonoses of public health importance. In 2008, he led the discovery of a new Old-World arenavirus (named by him Lujo) during a highly fatal nosocomial outbreak in Johannesburg. First recognition of yellow fever outbreak in Angola in 2015, prompted the implementation of massive vaccination in this country, thus contributing to its control. He is also responsible for managing the most advanced biocontainment infrastructure in the country and in Africa, building capacity for diagnostics, research and biosecurity of high-consequence pathogens, including the recently emerged severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). He led the South African mobile laboratory response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014-2016 - for weeks during Ebola crisis in Freetown this was the only diagnostic capacity available, and it was crucial not only for rapid diagnosis and isolation of Ebola cases, but also for contact tracing, patient management and safe burials. It was the largest SA outbreak response on a foreign soil and a part of international efforts in bringing the Ebola outbreak under control. In 2009 he was conferred a Professorship Title (in Veterinary Science) by the President of the Republic of Poland - Polish Central Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles. Awarded a statuette of “Sapere Auso” as an outstanding alumnus for professional achievements, 2011 - Rector of Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Wroclaw, Poland. Gold medal for NRF rated researcher, 2013: award from Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand. He is also a recipient of the Award from the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences University of the Witwatersrand in 2014 in recognition for his dedication and achievement in research. He won the first prize of the British Medical Association for Medical Book Awards, 2015 - contribution of two chapters. Awarded Honour Medal of Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, 2015.
Prof Karen Sliwa
Karen Sliwa is a Cardiologist, Professor and Director at the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa (HICRA) at the University of Cape Town which – formerly known as the MRC Interuniversity Cape Heart Group (2000 – 2010) and funded by the MRC. She is also Director of the newly established Cape Heart Institute and lead several research groups. She is vastly experienced in developing, designing and leading cardiovascular disease (CVD) studies in various healthcare environments in Africa and has devised innovative strategies to raise funds through numerous sources - at a time when very limited funding was available for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) research. Her seminal Heart of Soweto Study, reporting on the prevalence, presentation and management of cardiac disease in an urban African population (8000 patients), published in the Lancet in 2008, led to more than 25 publications describing, e.g. the impact of HIV/AIDS on CVD, the prevalence of rheumatic heart disease diagnosed in adulthood, and the spectrum of conditions leading to heart failure, amongst others. Under the umbrella of the ‘Heart of Africa Studies’, cardiovascular population studies have been expanded to other African countries, she has designed and implemented several innovative research programs and have leveraged funding for these projects. All cohort studies incorporate biological variables interlinked with socio-demographic parameters and the impact on health outcomes. She leads a large international registry on peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), funded by the European Cardiac Society (EORP PPCM) and known for her research in the area of cardiac disease in the peripartum period, which has led to more than 20 publications in that field and many roles and memberships in a number of prestigious journals including the Lancet, the European Heart Journal, Nature Review Cardiology and European Journal Heart Failure. Not only does her work speak for itself, she has awards and accolades to back it up – in 2019 she was awarded the Geoffrey Rose Award from the European Society of Cardiology for Population Studies and in 2017 she received an Honorary Doctorate from the University Diderot-Sorbonne, Paris, France (this is the highest distinction awarded by French Universities as recognition for Research and Global Engagement, which is awarded by the French University Research Board and approved by the French Ministry of Foreign affairs. She also has the German Cardiac Society Paul Morawitz Award under her name for Exceptional Cardiovascular Research (this distinguished award is given once per annum for exceptional research in cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery in Germany, Austria and Switzerland). Fellowships from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) are also in the bag.
Prof Michele Ramsay
Michele Ramsay is Professor of Human Genetics at Wits University’s School of Pathology and occupies the position of Director at the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience (Wits University) from 2014 to present.
Her research interests include:
African population genetic diversity and the role of genetic variants in diseases exacerbated by adverse lifestyle choices, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and stroke.
African population genetics and how that informs our understanding of migration, admixture and adaptation
Precision medicine approaches in an African context (Developing genetic assays for monogenic traits and pharmacogenomic variants)
The role of polygenic risk scores for complex diseases and trans-ethnic transferability of models
Prof Ramsay is a recipient of the 2020 NSTF-South32 Lifetime Achievement Award. She was named winner of the 2019 DSI Distinguished Woman Researcher and in the same year she was invited to serve on International Commission on the Clinical Use of Human Germline Genome Editing. Over three decades she has held several SAMRC research grants, attended workshops and worked with numerous researchers from the organisation. The SAMRC also funded her post-doctoral fellowship In London between 1987 and 1989. She is currently PI of the SAMRC - Pharmacogenomics in Precision Medicine research grant for the project: Exploratory framework for a pharmacogenomics guided treatment algorithm for high blood pressure in black Africans.
Prof Heather Zar
Heather Zar is Professor and Chair within the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at Red Cross Children’s Hospital and also Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Unit on Child & Adolescent Health, one of the organisation’s extramural research units which is housed at the University of Cape Town, since 2015. Her work, focused on childhood pneumonia, tuberculosis, asthma and HIV-associated disease has had global impact on strategies for diagnosis, prevention and treatment. She’s established a novel African birth cohort study, the Drakenstein Child Health study to investigate the early life determinants of child health. An NRF-A1 rated scientist, she’s developed a strong clinical translational research program, establishing several clinical research sites, building a core clinical research facility, attracting substantial funding from international grant agencies and mentoring several postgraduate students. A key advocate for child health in Africa and globally, she’s served as President of the Pan African Thoracic Society, past president of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies, and in an advisory capacity to the World Health Organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Prof Zar has many accolades under her name – to mention a few: she received the World Lung Health award from the American Thoracic Society in 2014, the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Laureate for Africa/Arabia in 2018 and the President’s Award from the International Congress in Pediatric Pulmonology in 2019 for a “Lifetime of seminal contributions that will impact generations to come and for embodying a role model for the paediatric pulmonary community worldwide”. She has and continues to mentor many postgraduate students (PhD, post-docs) most of whom are funded by the SAMRC its Research Capacity Development.
Prof Linda-Gail Bekker
Linda-Gail Bekker is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and holds the positions of Chief Research Officer at the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation and the Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre. Prof Bekker is an Infectious Disease Specialist with a keen interest in HIV, tuberculosis and related diseases with a focus in Adolescent Health, Women’s Health and IV Prevention. Her doctoral work focused on the host response to tuberculosis both with and in the absence of HIV co-infection. Subsequently, her research interests have expanded to include programmatic and Health Service research around antiretroviral roll-out and TB integration, prevention of HIV in women, youth and men who have sex with men. She is passionate about community development and engagement - some of her projects have included community-based HIV treatment, peer-led community education, mobile health services (Tutu testers) to the neediest populations. Since the advent of Covid-19, Prof Bekker has been in the frontline of the fight against the pandemic which saw her being involved in many vaccine trials including the Johnson & Johnson as Co-Principal Investigator. The Vaccine proved to offer 57% protection against moderate to severe Covid-19 infections in South Africa and is currently in Phase 1 of the rollout. In 2014 she received the UCT Alan Pifer Research Award which she shared with Prof Robin Wood given in recognition of outstanding welfare-related research. In the same year, she received the UCT Ralph Kirsch Golden Pen Award which is presented to authors of an SAMJ paper that has garnered the most citations over two years following publication. Other accolades include:
2016: Fellowship in Art and Science of Medicine Award for Medicine, South African Medical Association Merit Award.
2018: ASSAF “Science for Society” Gold Medal Award
Desmond Tutu Award for HIV Prevention and Human Rights presented at the HIVR4P Conference 2018
2020: Accepted to ASSAF as a fellow.
2020: Fellow, College of Fellows, University of Cape Town
Prof James (Jimmy) Volmink
Prof Volmink is the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences and Professor in the Department of Global Health at Stellenbosch University. His areas of expertise are Clinical epidemiology and Evidence-based medicine, with special contributions during a career extending over more than three decades including:
Developing and using rigorous methods to evaluate health care interventions relevant for addressing health problems affecting people living in low- and middle-income countries
Promoting evidence-based decision making at local, national and global levels, through knowledge translation efforts
Advocacy to address health and social inequalities
Building research capacity through training and mentorship.
His extensive research work has earned him countless accolades including being an elected member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (FRCP (Edin.) He has received the Leverhulme Medal for Distinguished Contribution from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK.
Other recognitions include:
Award for contributions to Evidence-based Health Care in Africa from the SAMRC.
Honorary doctorate conferred in February 2021 by KU Leuven, Belgium “in recognition of his work to promote human dignity and his contribution to science and practice to improve health and well-being”.
Stellenbosch University has recognized his contributions with a Rectors Award for General Performance (three times – 2013, 2014 and 2015) and most recently, in 2020, with a lifetime Chancellor’s Award for sustained excellent career performance.
Prof Volmink has a long history of association with the SAMRC dating back to 1990 when he was appointed as Specialist Scientist at the then Centre for Epidemiological Research in Southern Africa (CERSA). After completing his DPhil in Oxford, he was invited by the SAMRC to take up the role of Founding Director of the South African Cochrane Centre (now Cochrane SA). He achieved the rank of Chief Specialist Scientist in 1998. Over the course of more than two decades (either in a full-time or part-time capacity) he continued to contribute to building and guiding the Cochrane SA team. The Unit is, today, widely respected for the impact of its research and important contributions to evidence-based healthcare.
Prof Mike Sathekge
Mike Sathekge is Professor and Head of Nuclear Medicine Department at the University of Pretoria and Steve Biko Academic Hospital. He also holds the position of CEO/Head of the Main Nuclear Medicine Research Infrastructure (NuMeRI). An internationally acclaimed researcher, Prof Sathekge has a strong research focus in areas of Theranostics, Targeted Radionuclide Therapy, New Radiopharmaceuticals, Infection Imaging, PET/CT. As a result, he has won various prestigious awards for his research in the field of nuclear medicine and has received a B rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF). His numerous publications have had a significant impact in the field of nuclear medicine, both locally and abroad. He is the former Board Chairperson of the South African Medical Research Council for six years (2014-2019) and immediate past President of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa. He is a Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa: MASSAf and winner of the Research Excellence Award at the inaugural South African Health Excellence Awards. Prof Sathekge was the First winner of the late Ralph Kirsch Golden Pen Award and a recipient of the Fellowship in Art & Science of Medicine Award - SAMA award. He was the winner of the DSI award to host the R300 million Main Nuclear Medicine Research Infrastructure (NuMeRI) Facility in South Africa, which he is now CEO of. On the international front, he is the Editor-in-Chief of “Seminars in Nuclear Medicine”, the most important teaching review journal in nuclear medicine. Prof Sathekge has won several international best presentation awards on radionuclide therapy in prostate cancer (USA, EU, Brazil, India, China). He is the President-elect of the World Association of Radiopharmaceuticals and Molecular Therapy (WARMTH).