Division for Research Development
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SA Research Chair in Mechanistic Modelling of Health and Epidemiology

The aim of this Chair, led by Prof Jacky Snoep in the Biochemistry department and linked to SACEMA (South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis), is to provide a mechanistic modelling approach to analyse pharmaceutical drug effects and identify intervention steps to improve individual and public health. The goal is to construct and validate mathematical models of metabolism in cells and try to simulate the effects of the biochemical mechanisms underlying a disease for disease states at cellular, tissue and whole-body levels. The focus is on a number of important diseases in the South African context, i.e., malaria, type II diabetes, TB, and cancer. 

The detailed mathematical models are important for fundamental understanding of the mechanisms underlying the diseases and can point at drug targets that distinguish between normal and diseased cells. 

Examples of detailed mathematical modelling studies from our group at the pathway level are given in Nature communications 11 (1), 1-13, 2020, and for glycolysis in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum (The FEBS journal 282 (8), 1481-1511, 2015; Scientific reports 7 (1), 1-15, 2017). 

An excellent example of the detailed modelling approach at cellular and community level is provided in a recent publication in PNAS (2021, 118; e2010075118) for a microfluidic chamber mimicking diffusion limited substrate supply to an organ and leading to oscillatory waves and communities of synchronised cells. The whole-body modelling approach was illustrated in a conceptual paper for glucose metabolism in malaria patients (Biochemical Society Transactions 43 (6), 1157-1163, 2015; The FEBS journal 283 (4), 634-646, 2016; ). 

The project is linked to a Community of Practice for malaria elimination in SA, coordinated by L.-M. Birkholtz at the University of Pretoria, and is part of an EU M-ERANET project: 3D polymer matrix device for dual drug delivery and simultaneous treatment of acute malaria and malaria transmission. 

user.pngProf Jacky Snoep