​​​​​​​​​​Division of Molecular Biology & Human Genetics


Mycobacteriology: Host-Pathogen Mycobactomics​



 Principal Investigator

Prof. Samantha SamSam 01.jpgpson

Prof Sampson is a tuberculosis (TB) researcher with expertise in mycobacterial genetics, microbiology, immunology and animal models of TB. Prof. Sampson obtained her PhD from Stellenbosch University, and undertook post-doctoral training at the Harvard University School of Public Health and Imperial College London (where she held a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship). Upon being awarded a SARChI Chair in Mycobactomics, she returned to South Africa to establish a research group focused on TB host-pathogen interactions within the  DST/NRF Centre of Exce​llence in Biomedical Tuberculosis Research in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics.

Life outside the lab         Dogs and dog sports!

 ​Senior Scientists 

Dr. Nastassja Kriel  Nastassja 01.jpg
The isolation and charac​​terisation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis persister cells 

Dr. Kriel investigates the genes and pathways required for the formation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis persister bacteria by using transposon libraries and highly accurate sequencing data.

Email                               nastassja@sun.ac.za​

LinkedIn                         ​ ​www.linkedin.com/in/nastassja-kriel-732509a5

Life outside the lab       ​My daughter, Nina / Pets / Baking


 Post Doctoral Research Fellows

 Dr. Zimvo Obasa Zimvo 03.jpg

Mycobacterium tuberculosis at the host-pathogen interface

Zimvo's PhD project is split into two main arms: (1) The first arm focusses on characterizing the impact of mycobacterium persisters on host immune responses by measuring intracellular cytokine concentrations and performing RNA extraction on Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected macrophages; (2) Secondly, Zimvo will focus on evaluating the use of our in-house replication reporter system in identifying persister populations in a murine infection model. 

Supervisor                           Prof. Samantha Sampson 

Co-Supervisor                     Dr. Jomien Mouton / Dr. Liezel Smith 

Email                                    maqeda@sun.ac.za

LinkedIn                               www.linkedin.com/mynetwork/invite-connect/connections/

                                                                Life outside the lab             Baking / Outfoor Activities​

 PhD Candidates

Su-Mari du PlessisSu Mari 02.jpg
Biomimetic nanoparticle-based host-directed therapy (HDT) for the eradication of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Su-Mari's PhD aims at investigating the immune-stimulating effects of polymer-based and metal-organic framework (MOF) nanoparticles (NPs) functionalised with curdlan and mycolic acids. Curdlan is a naturally occurring polysaccharide known to stimulate an antibacterial response and mycolic acids are the dominant class of lipids found on the surface of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Curdlan and mycolic acids are added to the surface of MOF NPs, where they are able to alter the shape of MOF NPs, allowing the NPs to closely mimic Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This will allow Su-Mari to investigate the biomimetic ability of NPs by investigating the stimulated antibacterial immune response. Through the upregulation of the immune response, Su-Mari intends to create a host-directed therapeutic anti-TB approach that focuses on the processes that contribute to mycobacterial killing, rather than the                                                                                        bacterium itself    .                                                                     

                                                                      Supervisor                           Prof. Samantha Sampson (SU)

​​​​​​​                                                                      Co-Supervisor                     Dr. Nelita du Plessis (SU) / Prof. Admire Dube (UWC) / Dr. Josh Reineke                                                                                                                           (SDSU)

                                                                      Email                                    sduplessis@sun.ac.za

                                                                      LinkedIn                               www.linkedin.com/in/su-mari-du-plessis-283442160/

                                                                      Life outside the lab            Anything sport-related and preferably in nature


Esther Uwimaana
Functional characterization of T-cell immunogenicity of PPE_MPTR proteins of Mycobacterium tuberculosis 

Esther obtained her Master of Science in Immunology and Clinical Microbiology at Makerere University, Uganda. Esther joined the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics in 2021 as a PhD student where she intends to characterize the T-cell immune response to PPE_MPTR proteins of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. 

Supervisor                           Prof. Samantha Sampson

Co-supervisor                     Prof. Andre Loxton

Email                                    euwimaana@sun.ac.za   

                                                               Life outside the lab           Spending time with friends / Swimming / Hiking / Travelling 



Julian Coetzee 
Investigating the relationship between persister formation and clinical outcome in tuberculosis patients.

​Julian obtained his undergraduate and honours degrees in Biotechnology from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), where his main focus was elucidating secondary metabolites from Actinobacteria. In 2019, Julian joined the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics as a Master's candidate where he focussed on evaluating the correlation between persister formation and pulmonary TB disease outcome. 

Supervisor                           Dr. Jomien Mouton 

Co-supervisor                     Prof. Samantha Sampson / Dr. Anzaan Dippenaar

Email                                    jlcoetzee@sun.ac.za​

Life outside the lab           Hiking / Baking / Cooking​

MSc Candidates (to be updated)

Tayla Juliet Smith 

​Functional Characterization of PPE_MPTR proteins

​Tayla obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Chemistry from Stellenbosch University in 2020. She joined the Host-Pathogen Mycobactomics Research Group as an honours student in 2021, and her project involves the functional characterization of Mycobacterium tuberculosis PPE_MPTR proteins. 

Supervisor                            Dr. Nastassja Kriel

Co-supervisor                      Prof. Samantha Sampson

Email                                     tsmith@sun.ac.za

Life outside the lab             ​Reading / Watching true crime and medical documentaries / Spending time with                                                                                                                 friends


Lab Managers

 TJ 03.jpgTom Jack Bartizal 
 Investigating the localization of the PPE_MPTR proteins at the host-pathogen interface

TJ's MSc project focusses on an understudied sub-family of proteins native to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, known as the PPE_MPTR proteins. There are some studies that suggest biologically relevant roles of some PPE_MPTR proteins, however, the fundamental aspects of this protein sub-family are poorly understood. TJ's MSc aims to provide insight into the secretion and localisation of selected PPE_MPTR proteins in order to better understand their role at the host-pathogen interface. 

Supervisor                              Prof. Samantha Sampson 

Co-supervisor                        Dr. Nastassja Kriel

Email                                       bartizaltj@sun.ac.za

LinkedIn                                  www.linkedin.com/in/tom-bartizal-69298b153

Life outside the lab              Hiking / Video Games / Ghost Hunting​

 Programme Coordinators

​ Sune Dyers

 Zahn de Bruyn