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Prof Gerhard Walzl receives A-rating from NRF Gerhard Walzl receives A-rating from NRFCorporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>​One of Stellenbosch University (SU)'s eminent scientists, Prof Gerhard Walzl, Head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, received his first A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) recently. <br></p><p>Walzl's rating puts SU's total of A-rated researchers at 21 – the most ever at the institution. SU now boasts a total of 504 NRF-rated researchers. </p><p>An A-rating is the highest achievable rating for researchers on the NRF's rating system. A-rated researchers are unequivocally recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their respective fields for the high quality and impact of recent research outputs. </p><p>A clinician scientist, trained in internal medicine, pulmonology and immunology, Walzl, who is also a Distinguished Professor, leads the multi-disciplinary Immunology Research Group in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics at SU. </p><p>He was honoured by the NRF for his outstanding research on the immunology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) infection and in particular host biomarkers, including diagnostic markers and markers of TB treatment response and of protective immunity against MTB. </p><p>Commenting on his A-rating, Walzl said it signifies the leading role that South African scientists can and do play. He added that this is only possible through sustained collaboration both within the country and globally, and through the support of the university and South Africa and global funders of an exceptional team.</p><p>“My team is humbled by this recognition and grateful that more than two decades of hard work is seen as meaningful and cutting edge. It also shows that our research topic, immunology and biomarkers of TB, is seen as important. At the same time, we recognise that the job is not at all done and that a lot has to happen before one can say that health sciences have made a meaningful dent into the devastating TB challenge."</p><p>Prior to receiving an A-rating, Walzl was honoured by the South African Medical Research Council with a gold medal for Outstanding Lifetime Scientific Contributions to Health Research and also elected a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa in 2021. In the same year, an international research team led by him received the EDCTP (European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership) Scientific Research Team Prize.</p><p>Walzl has played a leading role in several international multisite projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the EDCTP and the US National Institute for Health. Under his leadership, the Department of Biomedical Sciences was instrumental in the recent launch of the state-of-the-art Biomedical Research Institute at SU, the most cutting-edge and advanced biomedical research complex of its kind in Africa. </p><p>Walzl has published widely on biomarkers for TB treatment response and contributed significantly to educational activities by supervising more than 30 postgraduate students during the past 15 years. He has also submitted six different patent applications, two of which were granted and four are still pending.</p><p>The NRF rating system is a benchmarking system whereby individuals who exemplify the highest standards of research, as well as those demonstrating strong potential as researchers, are identified by an extensive network of South African and international peer reviewers. Ratings are based on the quality and impact of recent research outputs (over an eight-year period).</p><ul><li>Click <a href="/english/research-innovation/Research-Development/Pages/ratedlist.aspx"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">here</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>for a list of SU's NRF-rated researchers.<br></li></ul><p><strong>​Photo by Stefan Els</strong><br></p>
Training the next generation of African scientific leaders in global health the next generation of African scientific leaders in global healthMedia Statement - African Academy of Science<p>​The <a href="" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">African Academy of Sciences (AAS)</span></a> has partnered with the <a href="" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">US National Institutes of Health</span></a> and the <a href="" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation</span></a> to strengthen African scientific leadership and advance health and development goals on the continent.<br></p><p><a href="/english/" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Stellenbosch University</span></a>'s Dr Carine Kunsevi Kilola is one of 10 outstanding early-career scientists from nine African countries to have been awarded four-year fellowships that will build their capacity to conduct cutting-edge research in global health. The fellowships will be awarded through the <a href="" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">African Postdoctoral Training Initiative</span></a> (APTI) programme, which is implemented by the African Academy of Sciences in partnership with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.</p><p>The APTI programme was established in 2019 to strengthen research capacity in African countries and develop ongoing scientific partnerships. APTI Fellows are trained and supported to become scientific leaders who can advocate for increased research and innovation projects in Africa. This is done through four-year postdoctoral fellowships where APTI Fellows join various laboratories of the NIH Institutes or Centres for two years before returning to their home institutions in Africa for another two years of programme support. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's support to the postdoctoral fellows includes seed funding for their research upon their return to their home institution.<br></p><p>Dr Peggy Oti-Boateng, Executive Director at the African Academy of Sciences, says “Investing in early-career scientists is a vital ingredient in the transformation of Africa into a knowledge-based and technology-led continent. The AAS is committed to facilitating research and innovation exchanges to enhance African research leadership to transform lives in the continent and deliver the 'Africa We Want'."<br></p><p>This third cohort of the APTI Fellows (APTI 3) - five women and five men - will assume their positions in NIH host labs in October 2023. Their research activities will focus on specific global health research priority areas including human immunobiology, microbiome research, drug discovery, genomics, HIV, malaria, maternal, neonatal and child health.<br></p><p>“This joint effort brings outstanding early-career African researchers to NIH and strengthens our research partnerships and research capacity in Africa over the long run," said Dr Peter Kilmarx, acting director of the Fogarty International Center and acting associate director for International Research at NIH. “We're thrilled to welcome these 10 new exceptional scientists with diverse research interests."<br></p><p>The APTI 3 Fellows represent the best research talent on the continent, competitively selected from 296 applicants. The 10 new fellows join two other active cohorts whose details are available on the <a href="" style="text-decoration:underline;"><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">APTI Programme</span></a> webpage.</p><p> </p><p><strong>Cohort 3: African Postdoctoral Training Initiative Fellows (2023)</strong></p><ul><li><b>Fellow: Carine Kunsevi Kilola<br></b>Home institution: Stellenbosch University<br>Country: South Africa<br>Research area: Maternal and child health<br></li></ul><ul><li><strong>Fellow: Alphonsus Ugwu<br></strong>Home institution: Redeemer's University<br>Country: Nigeria<br>Research area: Human immunobiology for surveillance<br></li></ul><ul><li><strong>Fellow: Amadou Niangaly<br></strong>Home institution: University of Sciences, Techniques and Technology of Bamako<br>Country: Mali<br>Research area: Malaria monoclonal antibodies</li></ul><ul><li><b>​Fellow: Daniel Amoako-Sakyi<br></b>Home institution: University of Cape Coast<br>Country: Ghana<br>Research area: Microbiome and immune responses in children</li></ul><ul><li><strong>​Fellow: Diana Marangu<br></strong>Home institution: University of Nairobi<br>Country: Kenya<br>Research area: Respiratory health in children</li></ul><ul><li><strong>Fellow: Kaelo Seatla<br></strong>Home institution: Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership<br>Country: Botswana<br>Research area: HIV genomics</li></ul><ul><li><strong>Fellow: Lobe Maloba<br></strong>Home institution: University of Buea<br>Country: Cameroon<br>Research area: Drug discovery</li></ul><ul><li><strong>Fellow: Rita Boateng<br></strong>Home institution: Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research<br>Country: Ghana<br>Research area: Malaria mol surveillance / antimalarial resistance</li></ul><ul><li><strong>Fellow: Vinie Kouamou<br></strong>Home institution: Charles River Medical Group<br>Country: Zimbabwe<br>Research area: HIV vaccine development / cure​<br></li></ul><ul><li><strong>Fellow: Yaovi Hounmanou<br></strong>​Home institution: University of Abomey-Calavi<br>Country: Benin<br>Research area: Genomics for surveillance</li></ul><p>​<br></p><p><em>Caption: </em><em>Dr Carine Kunsevi Kilola</em><br></p>
SU students and alumni off to Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Physiology and Medicine students and alumni off to Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Physiology and MedicineMedia & Communication, Faculty of Science<p>​<br><br></p><p>Four young scientists and alumni from Stellenbosch University (SU) will be part of the group of nine young South African scientists who have been selected to participate in the <a href="">72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting</a> dedicated to Physiology and Medicine which will be held from 25 to 30 June in Lindau, Germany</p><p>They will join the ranks of 635 of the most qualified young scientists from more than 90 nationalities, selected by the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. More than 40 Nobel Laureates will also attend the meeting.</p><p>The participants from Stellenbosch University are <a href="">Dr Nabila Ismail</a>, a research scientist in the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and three postgraduate students and alumni from the Department of Physiological Sciences in the Faculty of Science. They are <a href="">Dr Martin Page</a>, <a href="">Ms Claudia Christowitz</a>, and <a href="">Dr Gina Leisching</a>.</p><p>Dr Page currently works for the technology consulting firm Capgemini Invent, where he is involved in digital innovation for life science and health care and policy research. Dr Gina Leisching is a senior research fellow in clinical medicine in the School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin, while Ms Claudia Christowitz is a PhD-student at SU with Prof. Anna-Mart Engelbrecht as study leader.</p><p>According to a media release from the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), the South African participants attended a two-day workshop during which they were addressed by high-level speakers in science and technology, as well as alumni of previous Lindau Laureate meetings. They also interacted with 60 learners from Naledi High School, Jabulani Technical and Tswasongu Secondary School.</p><p>In Lindau, the young scientists will experience a six-day programme with numerous lectures and panel discussions. They will also have the opportunity to meet the biggest science names in physiology and medicine when they are introduced to the Lindau Nobel Laureates. <br></p><p>On the photo above, from left to right: Dr Nabila Ismail, Dr Gina Leisching, Dr Martin Page en PhD student Claudia Christowitz.<br></p><p><br></p>
Eminent researchers to fly SU flag at SA’s ‘Science Oscars’ researchers to fly SU flag at SA’s ‘Science Oscars’Corporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>​Stellenbosch University (SU) will be well represented at the <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">2022/2023 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)/South32 Awards</strong></a> with no fewer than seven of the institution's eminent researchers set to compete as finalists for South Africa's prestigious 'Science Oscars'.  The 25th annual NSTF Awards will be held on Thursday 13 July 2023.<br></p><p>The NSTF Awards Gala Event will take place simultaneously in Cape Town and Johannesburg, while being broadcast live to an online audience from both cities via the NSTF YouTube channel. The patron of the Awards, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, has been invited to preside over the presentation of the awards.<br></p><p>Regarded as the most sought-after national accolades of their kind in the country, the NSTF/South32 Awards recognise, celebrate and reward the outstanding contributions of individuals, teams and organisations to science, engineering and technology (SET) in the country. Among the competitors are experienced scientists, engineers, innovators, science communicators, engineering capacity builders, organisational managers and leaders, as well as data and research managers.</p><p>According to the organisers, it is an extraordinary honour to be a finalist given the quality of the nominations received every year, the fierce competition that nominees face and growing interest from the SET community over the years.</p><p>The SU finalists (with their departments, divisions or environments) and the categories in which they will compete are as follows:</p><p><strong><em>Lifetime Award</em></strong><br></p><ul><li><p>Prof Clive Gray (Molecular Biology and Human Genetics)</p></li><li>Prof Jonathan Jansen (Education Policy Studies)<br></li><li>Prof Francesco Petruccione (School for Data Science and Computational Thinking)</li></ul><p><strong><em>TW Kambule Award: Researcher</em></strong></p><ul><li>Prof Novel Chegou (Molecular Biology and Human Genetics) </li><li>Prof Marlo Moller (Molecular Biology and Human Genetics) </li></ul><p><strong><em>NSTF-South African Medical Research Council Award: Emerging Researcher</em></strong></p><ul><li>Dr Leigh van der Heuvel (Psychiatry) </li><li>Prof Shahida Moosa (Molecular Biology and Human Genetics) ​<br></li></ul><p>​<br></p>
New model sheds light on the origin of humans in Africa model sheds light on the origin of humans in AfricaFMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie<p>​Two <a href="/english/"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Stellenbosch University</strong></a> (SU) scientists were instrumental in the development of an evolutionary model shedding new light on questions around human origins in Africa. </p><p>This new model, recently published in the prominent journal <em class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Nature</strong></a></em>, claims that at least two evolutionary branches of <em>Homo sapiens</em> split (but continued to mix) over hundreds of thousands of years. This so-called “weakly structured stem" (made up by a mixture of these two branches) is proposed to have contributed to the formation of an ancestral African human group, which then branched off into contemporary African populations, as well as populations living outside of Africa. </p><p>"While it is widely believed that <em>Homo sapiens</em> originated in Africa, there is uncertainty around how branches of human evolution diverged and migrated across the continent," says Marlo Möller, a professor of molecular biology and human genetics at SU's <a href="/english/faculty/healthsciences"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences</strong></a> (FMHS). “This uncertainty is due to limited fossil and ancient genomic data, and the fact that the fossil record does not always align with expectations from models built using modern DNA."</p><p>Möller and Prof Eileen Hoal, both SU scientists affiliated with the <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Biomedical Tuberculosis Research</strong></a> and the <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">SAMRC Centre for Tuberculosis Research</strong></a>, collaborated with Prof Brenna Henn, a population geneticist from the University of California, Davis, and evolution geneticist Prof Aaron Ragsdale and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on this research. </p><p>For the study, they sequenced the genome of 44 modern Nama individuals. (The Nama people are an indigenous southern African population known to carry exceptional levels of genetic diversity compared with other modern groups.) They then tested a range of competing models of evolution and migration across Africa proposed in paleoanthropological and genetics literature, incorporating population genome data from southern, eastern, and western Africa.</p><p>The model they developed suggests the earliest population split among early humans that is detectable in contemporary populations occurred 120 000 to 135 000 years ago, after two or more weakly genetically differentiated <em>Homo</em> populations had been mixing for hundreds of thousands of years. After the split, ancient human-like species (hominis) still migrated between the stem populations, creating a weakly structured stem. </p><p>“This model offers a better explanation of genetic variation among individual humans and human groups than do previous models," says Möller.</p><p>The authors predict that according to this model, 1-4% of genetic differentiation among contemporary human populations can be attributed to variation in the stem populations. </p><p>This model may have important consequences for the interpretation of the fossil record – owing to migration between the branches, these multiple lineages were probably morphologically similar, which means morphologically divergent hominid fossils (such as <em>Homo naledi</em>) are unlikely to represent branches that contributed to the evolution of <em>Homo sapiens</em>.<br></p><p>​<br></p><p><em>Caption: Profs Eileen Hoal and Marlo Möller.</em><br></p>
A world-class biomedical research facility in Africa, for Africa world-class biomedical research facility in Africa, for AfricaFMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie – Wilma Stassen<p>​​South African Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Mr Buti Manamela, commended Stellenbosch University (SU) on its visionary leadership in establishing the cutting-edge Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI) – which will not only benefit the people of South Africa, but the entire African continent.<br></p><p>“Building on SU's long tradition of world-class research, the creation of this state-of-the-art facility is a very important milestone in our efforts to strengthen our national system of innovation, and more specifically, the health research innovation and infrastructure of both our country and our continent," Manamela said at the inauguration of SU's BMRI. This facility is the most advanced biomedical research complex on the African continent and is focussed on finding solutions to some of the most pressing health issues affecting people in South Africa and the rest of Africa.</p><p>Manamela officiated the opening of this R1,2 billion (approximately US$ 66 million) facility during a gala dinner, held last night (19 April 2023) at the BMRI on SU's Tygerberg campus in Cape Town. The event formed part of a week-long programme hosted by SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences to introduce the new facility to the public and the global and local scientific community. </p><p>“The BMRI is not just a facility – it represents a new way of doing science on the African continent. It is a symbol of our commitment to using science to create a better future for all," SU Rector, Prof Wim de Villiers said in his address. “We believe that the BMRI will be a catalyst for change, leading the way in the fight against disease and promoting the health and well-being of people throughout the continent."</p><p>The BMRI houses more than 500 biomedical researchers and students, including some of the world's foremost scientists in the fields of bioinformatics, tuberculosis, neuroscience, and urology. The leading-edge research emanating from the facility has a decidedly African focus and seeks to understand the genetic and biomolecular basis of diseases afflicting South Africa and the rest of the African continent, such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and cardio-metabolic disorders.</p><p>The BMRI boasts numerous state-of-the-art laboratories, including the largest (600 m<sup>2</sup>) biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory and fully automated biorepository in Africa, a bioinformatics hub, electron microscopy laboratories, proteomics and flow cytometry services (FACS) laboratories, a medical morphological learning centre; a Sunskill laboratory, and clinical research facilities.</p><p>“We see the creation of this facility by SU as an important addition to our country's scientific resources. The research focus of the facility aligns perfectly with the objectives of government policy – the White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation and the decadal plan – which aims to strengthen our country's national system of innovation, to the benefit of all," said Manamela.<br></p><p>​<br></p><p><em>Caption: Prof Wim de Villiers (SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor), Prof Elmi Muller (Dean of SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences) and Deputy Minister for Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Mr Buti Manamela, cutting the ribbon at the BMRI's inauguration.</em><br></p><p><em>Photo credit: Nardus Engelbrecht</em><br></p>
Improving lives with breakthroughs in biomedical sciences lives with breakthroughs in biomedical sciencesGerhard Walzl<p>​​A leading-edge biomedical research facility, the Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI), is being launched by Stellenbosch University (SU) this week. In an opinion piece for the <em>Daily Maverick </em>(13 April 2023), Prof Gerhard Walzl, Head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, explains why this R1,2 billion investment in biomedical sciences is important, and what it will mean for Africa. </p><ul><li><p>Read the article below or click <a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">here</strong></a><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"> </strong>for the piece as published.</p></li></ul><p><strong>The case for biomedical sciences</strong><br></p><p>Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are most often viewed as the heroes of healthcare. And while they undoubtedly play a crucial role in delivering treatment to patients (often selflessly and courageously under difficult circumstances), this paradigm does not account for the multitude of scientists and thousands of laboratory hours behind the research and development of every tablet, injection or medical device used to treat you, the patient. </p><p>To use a cycling metaphor – if healthcare workers are the cyclists, biomedical science is not only the bicycle they're riding, but also the road, the road map, the construction worker who built the road, and the town planner who designed it.</p><p>Biomedical research has long been at the heart of sweeping changes to the practice of medicine and underpins new ground-breaking developments. </p><p>Immediately coming to mind is Sir Alex Fleming's almost forgotten Petri dish that led to the discovery of penicillin – the antibiotic touted as having saved more than 200 million lives over the past eight decades. Or the discovery of insulin and consequent scientific developments enabling mass production of this hormone, making it accessible to millions of type 1 diabetes patients whose lives would otherwise have been cut short. </p><p>More recent developments include the development of 3D-printed medical devices that have revolutionised some fields of medicine. Some of the applications in use today include 3D-printed skin for burn victims; airway splints for lungs; noses and ears for cancer patients; heart valves; joint implants; and functional artificial hands. Experimentally, spontaneously beating 3D-printed hearts have been produced, albeit for rabbits. In future, such developments could be game changers for the treatment of life-threatening conditions, like heart failure. </p><p>Biomedical science concerns itself with finding answers to medical questions and provides pieces of the puzzle that have been essential for the progress that we have seen over the past 100 years, accelerating dramatically over the past few decades.</p><p>Taken together, there are too many applications of biomedical sciences to mention. All preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic or treatment monitoring interventions have been channelled through biomedical science processes. This includes vaccines, pain killers, new cancer treatments, contraceptives, antibiotics, nutritional support, cholesterol-lowering drugs, heart failure drugs, immune suppressive drugs, organ transplantation-related drugs and many more.</p><p><strong>Biomedical science </strong><strong><em>in</em></strong><strong> Africa</strong></p><p>In South Africa, biomedical science was thrust onto the international stage during the recent Covid-19 pandemic, when genomic surveillance – conducted right here on the Cape Flats – enabled South African scientists to quickly identify the Beta and Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2 and warn the rest of the world about the impending threat.</p><p>Covid-19 will not be the last pathogen to cause epidemics and pandemics. As was evident during the last epidemic, there are significant barriers to the rapid availability and sharing of available genomic data. The Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA), established by Prof Tulio de Oliveira, a key member of the BMRI, allows the combination of near-real time genomic surveillance data with other epidemiological data and to rapidly analyse the data to produce actionable information for public health officials and policymakers. </p><p>Clear communication lines between scientists and policy makers in South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world will be essential for rapid responses, the formulation of public health interventions and monitoring of future pandemics, to prevent a repetition of the devastating economic and public health consequences that were seen during the Covid-19 pandemic.</p><p><strong>Biomedical science </strong><strong><em>for</em></strong><strong> Africa</strong></p><p>Africa has its own set of health challenges and needs to develop its own solutions that take African realities into account. These include a lack of infrastructure, such as transportation and cold chain challenges, affordability, disease profiles, such as higher prevalence of infectious diseases like TB, malaria and HIV and population genetic make-up. </p><p>Simply relying on solutions developed in other areas for their own realities will not ensure that the most appropriate solutions are researched or adopted. Africa should not only be the recipient of biomedical technology, but also a provider of solutions. An investment in biomedical research, which is dedicated to understanding the genetic and bio-molecular basis of disease with a decidedly African focus, will play a significant role in achieving this.</p><p>In addition, African researchers have a lot to offer to the world of biomedical sciences, particularly in the field of infectious diseases, where ground-breaking research on SARS-CoV-2, HIV and TB is being conducted. The BMRI will allow significant human capacity development through training some of the best students from the continent and exposing them to extensive national and international research networks to result in a next generation of successful scientists. </p><p><strong>Investing in biomedical science in and for Africa</strong></p><p>Against the background of the many medical breakthroughs that have saved countless lives, SU's investment of R1,2 billion in the BMRI is of huge significance for South Africa and the rest of Africa. </p><p>The more than 500 scientists at the BMRI conduct research which translates into discoveries that help improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of illnesses contributing most to morbidity and mortality in South Africa and Africa<em>. </em></p><p>The<em> </em>BMRI consists of several state-of-the-art laboratories, including electron microscopy, proteomics, molecular biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology and FACS laboratories (for fluorescence-activated cell sorting); the largest fully automated biorepository on the African continent; a bioinformatics hub; and a clinical research unit. It also hosts the SUNSkill facility that offers advanced surgical training to local and international specialists.</p><p>The immense value of the BMRI was recognised even before its completion in 2023, and high-profile visitors, including President Cyril Ramaphosa and WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, came to view the facility in 2022. </p><p>The facility's potential was endorsed when the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), located in the BMRI, was selected by the WHO as a partner-member of the first Covid mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Hub. </p><p><strong>The bicycle and the cyclist</strong></p><p>But back to the cycling metaphor: Just like the bicycle would mean nothing without a willing and able cyclist, the solid foundation that biomedical sciences provide would be nothing without healthcare workers taking it to patients in need. <br></p><p>​<br></p>
Leading-edge Biomedical Research Institute a 'game changer' for healthcare in Africa Biomedical Research Institute a 'game changer' for healthcare in Africa Corporate Communication and Marketing Division / Afdeling Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking<p>​​The launch of its new state-of-the-art Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI) places Stellenbosch University (SU) at the forefront of biomedical sciences on the African continent. <br></p><p>The BMRI is a world-class biomedical research complex on par with the best in the world and is unparalleled, not only on the African continent, but the entire southern hemisphere, in terms of its cutting-edge facilities and extensive research capacity. </p><p>The BMRI, situated on SU's Tygerberg Campus in Cape town, is being inaugurated over the next week.</p><p>“The realisation of the BMRI resonates with SU's vision of being Africa's leading research-intensive university with the objective of being globally recognised for our excellence in innovation to advance knowledge in service of society," says Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor.</p><p>The facility houses more than 500 biomedical researchers and students, including some of the world's foremost scientists in the fields of bioinformatics, tuberculosis, neuroscience, and urology. The leading-edge research emanating from the facility has a decidedly African focus and seeks to understand the genetic and biomolecular basis of diseases afflicting South Africa and the rest of the African continent.</p><p>“Scientists at the BMRI conduct research that translates into discoveries that help improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of illnesses affecting the people of South Africa and the rest of Africa," says Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, Vice Dean: Research and Internationalisation of SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), where the BMRI is based.</p><p>Construction of this R1,2 billion facility (approximately US$ 66 million) commenced in 2018 and was completed in 2023 – despite major challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The planning and design of this multifaceted complex followed a future-focussed approach resulting in a high-performance research hub that is modular, functional and sustainable. </p><p>The BMRI boasts numerous state-of-the-art laboratories, including the largest (600m<sup>2</sup>) biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory and fully-automated biorepository in Africa, lecture and conference theatres equipped with the latest audio-visual technology, and large modern dissection halls custom-engineered to minimise formaldehyde exposure. The BMRI was also awarded a 4-star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa.</p><p>“The research conducted in the BMRI builds on SU's commitment to impactful research which takes into account the natural environment, health, human security as well as systems and technologies for the future. At the heart of our scientific endeavours, is the challenge to be locally relevant and globally competitive," says Prof Sibusiso Moyo, SU Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies.</p><p>The immense value of the BMRI was recognised even before its completion in 2023, and high-profile visitors, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, came to view the facility in 2022. The facility's potential was further endorsed when SU's Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), located in the BMRI, was selected by the WHO as a partner-member of the first Covid mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Hub.</p><p>“The investment in the BMRI will allow significant human capacity development through training some of the best students from the continent and exposing them to extensive national and international research networks to results in a next generation of successful scientists," says Prof Elmi Muller, FMHS Dean. “The BMRI will be a game changer for healthcare in Africa and is true evidence of using breakthrough science to improve lives."</p><p> </p><p><strong>MORE ABOUT THE BMRI</strong></p><ul><li>The BMRI is the largest and most sophisticated research complex of its kind on the African continent and in the southern hemisphere.</li><li>Apart from the facilities mentioned above, the BMRI also hosts:</li><ul><li>A Bioinformatics hub;</li><li>Electron microscopy laboratories;</li><li>Proteomics and flow cytometry services (FACS) laboratories;</li><li>A Medical Morphological Learning Centre;</li><li>The Sunskill laboratory; and</li><li>Clinical research facilities.</li></ul><li>At 600m<sup>2</sup>, the BMRI hosts the largest biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory facilities on the African continent. BSL-3 laboratories are used to study infectious agents or toxins that may be transmitted through the air and cause potentially lethal infections. BSL-3 laboratories are designed to be easily decontaminated. </li><li>A system of negative air pressure keeps hazardous fumes or airborne toxins from flowing out of laboratories and into adjacent areas. A powerful ventilation and filtration plant continuously draw air out of laboratories and to the top of the building, where it is filtered and released.</li><li>The BMRI boasts advanced energy recovery technology fitted to the air system that reduces the building's carbon footprint compared to other similar buildings.</li></ul><p> </p><p><em>Click </em><a href="/english/faculty/healthsciences/biomedical-research-institute/Pages/Groups.aspx"><em>here</em></a><em> for more information on the research being conducted at the BMRI.</em></p><p><em>Click </em><a href="/english/Lists/Events/DispForm.aspx?ID=5476"><em>here</em></a><em> for more information about the BMRI launch activities taking place over the next week.</em></p><ul><li><em>Click </em><a href="/english/faculty/healthsciences/biomedical-research-institute/Pages/Resources.aspx#GB"><em>here</em></a><em> for a link to photos, videos and soundbites</em></li></ul><p><em><br></em></p><p> </p><p> </p><p>​<br></p>
Doctoral study can help prevent spreading of bovine TB in African buffaloes study can help prevent spreading of bovine TB in African buffaloesCorporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Alec Basson]<p>​A researcher at Stellenbosch University (SU) has found an innovative way to diagnose bovine Tuberculosis (TB) in African buffaloes and identify infected animals more accurately and rapidly. <br></p><p>This can help to prevent the spread of the disease in one of the continent's most iconic and high-valued species.<br></p><p>“It is essential to diagnose bovine TB quicker and to accurately identify infected buffaloes early because these animals keep the disease-causing bacteria in the ecosystem, which can cause infection of other species such as lions, wild dogs, rhinos, elephants, and antelopes," says Dr Charlene Clarke from the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at SU. <br></p><p>“This could negatively impact wildlife tourism, the economy, and conservation programmes," cautions Clarke, who obtained her PhD in Molecular Biology on Tuesday 28 March 2023 at one of SU's March graduation ceremonies. <br></p><p>For her doctorate, Clarke combined molecular and immune-based tests to help improve the diagnosis of bovine TB in buffaloes. She says current strategies to eradicate bovine TB require the testing of animals, followed by the culling of infected animals.<br></p><p>As part of her study, Clarke collected tissue and swab samples from the mouths and noses (oronasal) of infected animals while they were immobilised. She also collected oronasal swabs from buffaloes that tested negative for bovine TB. These swabs also allowed her to identify and characterise nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTMs) species in buffaloes. All the swab samples were stored in a medium that inactivates all pathogens and stabilises the DNA, thereby rendering them safe to handle.<img src="/english/PublishingImages/Lists/dualnews/My%20Items%20View/Clarke-fieldwork.jpg" alt="Clarke-fieldwork.jpg" class="ms-rtePosition-2" style="margin:5px;width:505px;height:377px;" /><br></p><p>Clarke then used these inactivated samples together with a human TB diagnostic test to detect the presence of <em>Mycobacterium bovis</em> DNA in buffaloes. <em>M. bovis</em> causes bovine TB in wildlife and livestock species. She says her study is the first to combine these methods for the detection of bovine TB in buffaloes.<br></p><p>“We found that the combined use of swab samples, stored in a pathogen-inactivating medium, and the test used to diagnose TB in humans made it possible to accurately and rapidly identify <em>M. bovis</em> infected buffaloes, while ensuring the safety of the humans who handle samples that potentially contain zoonotic bacteria.<br></p><p>“We further found that there is a great diversity of NTM species present in buffaloes, some of which seem to cause false positive bovine TB test results in these animals. The wide diversity of NTMs in buffaloes identified in this study provides a foundation for further research to investigate their role in wildlife bovine TB diagnostic testing and host immune responses.</p><p>“This novel approach provided a safe sampling method and quick, accurate results, making it possible to bypass the requirement for costly and laborious tests of mycobacterial tissue grown in a laboratory for diagnosis."<br></p><p>Clarke adds that the human TB diagnostic test, which is available in many developing countries with African buffalo populations, could potentially minimise the need to transport samples from remote locations to specialised laboratories for bovine TB diagnosis. It could also provide same-day results to diagnose infected buffaloes. Currently, it takes more than two months before results from tissue grown in the laboratory are ready.<br></p><p>Clarke says her study is important given the factors that complicate accurate diagnosis in buffaloes, such as the confirmation of infection by mycobacterial isolation from tissue grown in a laboratory, which relies on time-consuming methods with limited sensitivity; exposure of buffaloes to more than 250 NTMs that are closely related to <em>M. bovis</em>; and the inappropriate interpretation of diagnostic tests. </p><p>“The presence of NTMs, for example, can cause false-positive test results which can lead to the unnecessary loss of animals due to culling, and quarantine of the farm on which 'positive' animals were identified." <br></p><p>Going forward, we need to continuously improve the diagnostic tools for accurately identifying infected buffaloes at early stages of infection, before they shed bacteria and transmit it to other animals, concludes Clarke. <br></p><p>​​​“The development of new molecular-based tools that are used directly on collected samples is a step in the right direction, as it significantly improves the accurate detection of infected animals at a faster turnaround time than culture-based tests, thereby giving same-day results. This will dramatically improve disease control strategies in the quest towards eradicating bovine TB in South Africa."​<br></p><p><strong>Photo</strong>: Dr Charlene Clarke at the graduation ceremony. <strong>Photographer</strong>: Stefan Els<br></p><p><strong>Photo 1</strong> (supplied): Dr Charlene Clarke and fellow researcher Dr Wynand Goosen collecting samples.<br></p><p> </p><p><br></p><p>​<br></p>
World TB Day: FMHS experts in the news TB Day: FMHS experts in the newsFMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie<p>​​​​World TB Day is observed annually on 24 March and the theme for this year's commemoration was “YES we can end TB". A number of TB experts from Stellenbosch University's <a href="/english/faculty/healthsciences/"><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences</strong></a> were featured in the media in regard to this important topic.</p><p><a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">TB in children isn't being controlled – it's key to fighting the disease for everyone else</strong></a><br> <em>The Conversation</em> – 23 March 2023<br> Dr Tom Nyirenda – Department of Global Health</p><p><a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">TB kills 75 000 children in Africa every year: how this can stop</strong></a><br> <em>The Conversation</em> – 23 March 2023<br> Dr Graeme Hoddinott – Desmond Tutu TB Centre</p><p><a href=""><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0"><strong>The forgotten form of TB that can carry on forever</strong></span></a><br> <em>financialmail </em>– 24 March 2023<br> Prof Brian Allwood – Department of Medicine</p><p><a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Animal TB Research</strong></a><br> <em>RSG</em> – 24 March 2023<br> Dr Wynand Goosen – Department of Biomedical Sciences</p><p><a href=""><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0">Could you or a family member have TB? Act now</strong></a><br> <em>Daily News</em><br> Foster Mohale (DoH) & Yogan Pillay - Department of Global Health​​<br></p><p>​<br></p>