Page 93 - UCT Research Report 2011

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Professor Anna-Lise Williamson
is a virologist on the joint staff of
the University of Cape Town and
the National Health Laboratory
Service. As a full member of
the Institute of Infectious Disease
and Molecular Medicine, her
research activities are housed in
this institute. She is internationally
recognised for both her HIV vaccine and Human
Papillomavirus (HPV) expertise. She has headed the
South Africa AIDS Vaccine Initiative-funded vaccine
development team since 2000. This team has been
responsible for the development of two vaccines currently
in Phase 1 clinical trials in the USA and South Africa,
and the ongoing potency assay for one of the vaccines
is currently performed in the UCT Vaccine Research
Group Good Laboratory Practice Facility. Professor
Williamson is head of the World Health Organisation’s
HPV Labnet lab for the Africa Region and joint head
of the Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory (UCT/
Cancer Biology
Professor Iqbal Parker was
appointed as Chairholder under
the auspices of the Institute
of Infectious Disease and
Molecular Medicine. He has a
well-established international
reputation in the field of cancer
biology, and recently played a
key role in the establishment of
the African component of the International Centre for
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology at the IIDMM.
burden of disease
adolescents, in preparation for late-phase trials. Some SATVI
studies focus on diagnostics – how best to diagnose TB in
vaccine trials – and on the ethics of vaccine trial participation.
Encouraging cross-disciplinary
While it’s easy to spot the synergies, overlaps and
common ground between research groups and themes at
the IIDMM, it is tricky at times to bring together so many
approaches and disciplines under one virtual roof, says
Professor Mizrahi.
But the IIDMM has set up a number of initiatives to get
researchers from the many disciplines into one room, at
least. That includes, most prominently, the IIDMM’s cross-
disciplinary seminar series.
“We’re trying to nudge our students to take advantage
of this,” says Professor Mizrahi, “because it’s one thing
to have it in place, but it’s quite another for students
and fellows to take advantage of it – attending, listening,
and actually making the effort to often learn a different
discipline and a different language.”
That big-picture view, experience shows, is what the
country needs if it is to make inroads into its burden
of disease.
With this in mind, the IIDMM has also benefitted from
Growing the Next Generation of Academics, a new UCT
initiative aimed at assisting a select group of postgraduate
students to complete a PhD and then enter academia.
Funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, the
initiative focuses on civil engineering, economics, and
infectious diseases. It is run with three other African
universities – the University of the Witwatersrand in South
Africa, the University of Ghana, and Makerere University
in Uganda.
The IIDMMwas able to support 18 PhDs and six postdoctoral
research fellows in the first funding cycle alone.
“This important programme has enabled us to strengthen
our efforts in capacity development in the field of infectious
diseases by supporting outstanding young researchers,”
says Professor Mizrahi.
And these same young researchers will now join the
institute in its multi-pronged fight against the burden
of disease.
“The IIDMM has set up a number of
initiatives to get researchers from the
many disciplines into one room.”