Meet the team
CBTBR Director and Node Heads

Prof Paul van Helden
E-mail: pvh@sun.ac.za
Prof Paul van Helden (SU node) is Director of the CBTBR. He started working on TB in about 1990 and in that time has focussed the attention of the department mainly on this disease. The university has listed TB as one of its focus areas.  Paul tries to position his research activities between basic and applied TB research. In July 2009, Prof. Paul van Helden was featured in an article on Thompson Reuters’ Sciencewatch, citing him as the 4th highest ranked scientist in the World in the field of tuberculosis. Paul has been the recipient of a number of awards, including Stellenbosch University’s Vice Chancellors award for Excellence in Research, Gold Medals by the SASBMB and the Academy of Science of South Africa,   the Silver medal of the MRC and the NSTF award for outstanding contribution to Science.

Prof Valerie Mizrahi
E-mail: Valerie.Mizrahi@uct.ac.za

Prof Valerie Mizrahi is the director of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and professor at the University of Cape Town.  She heads the UCT node of the CBTBR, is the director of the Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council and is an International Research Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2000, Valerie was awarded the Unesco-L'Oréal For Women in Science Prize for the Africa and Middle-East region. Valerie is an Associate Fellow of the Academy of Sciences of the Developing World, a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and a Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa. She has been awarded the Gold Medal of the SA Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Distinguished Woman Scientist Award from the DST and the Order of the Mapungubwe: Silver from the State President of South Africa. In 2009, Valerie was elected into Fellowship of the American Academy of Microbiology and was awarded an ‘A’ rating by the NRF.

Dr Bavesh Kana
E-mail: bavesh.kana@nhls.ac.za

Dr Bavesh KanaDr Bavesh Kana is a senior researcher and Head of the Wits Node of the CBTBR. He completed his PhD degree and postdoctoral fellowship in the Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand. He is the recipient of a Columbia University - Southern African Fogarty AIDS Training and Research Program fellowship for postdoctoral training from 2004-2006 at the Public Health Research Institute (PHRI) in New Jersey (USA) and has also undertaken short-term working visits to collaborating labs at the University of Pennsylvania, Texas A&M University and Harvard Medical School. He has been recently awarded the Friedel Sellschop Research Award and the MRC Career Development Award.

CBTBR Core team members

Prof Gerhard Walzl
E-mail: GWALZL@sun.ac.za
Prof Gerhard Walzl
Prof Gerhard Walzl leads the immunology group in Molecular Biology and Human Genetics and is also a part-time consultant physician and pulmonologist in the Lung Unit at Tygerberg Academic Hospital.  With his research he tries to bridge the divide between clinical disciplines and the basic sciences. The group focuses on the immunology of infectious diseases. Biomarkers of different outcomes of TB infection and different outcomes of TB treatment are important research topics. Such markers could become important tools for vaccine design, diagnostic tests and development of new TB therapies. The group also examines the effect of gastrointestinal helminth infection on HIV disease progression in humans and on TB infection in animal models as well as in humans.

Prof Rob Warren:
E-mail:
rw1@sun.ac.za
Prof Rob WarrenProf Rob Warren continues to focus on the disease dynamics of the M. tuberculosis epidemic in Southern Africa. His current research focuses on:  1) the disease dynamics of drug sensitive and M(X)DR-TB, 2) the development of novel diagnostics which are applicable to the developing world, 3) discovery of the mechanisms whereby drug resistance develops, 4) speciation of mycobacteria causing disease in humans and animals, 5) application of novel methods to improve the speed of diagnosing smear positive disease, 5) host-pathogen compatibility, 6) identification of highly pathogenic strains of M. tuberculosis, 7) pathogen evolution and 8) mycobacterial epigenetics.

Prof Tommie Victor
E-mail: tv@sun.ac.za
Prof Tommie VictorProf Tommie Victor and his team are involved in various research projects aimed at understanding the epidemiology and evolution of drug resistance. A longitudinal reference drug resistance Database and a large collection of well characterised viable resistant culture bank is maintained and this is central to these investigations. The culture bank, linked to the database, is a national asset which provide many opportunities for further research, training, to attract funding, set up collaborations and to guide the national TB program on the control of drug resistant TB. State of art molecular technologies are used to study the evolution of drug resistance and to understand how the bacterium behave under stress by first and second line drugs. This is important, as understanding of these mechanisms will aid in the development of designer drugs and ultimately to control the acquisition and spread of drug resistant TB.

Prof Eileen Hoal van Helden
E-mail: egvh@sun.ac.za
Prof Eileen Hoal van Helden
Prof Eileen Hoal at Stellenbosch University has been working in the field of tuberculosis since 1993. She heads a group in the department investigating the human genetic susceptibility to tuberculosis. These investigations involve case-control and family-based association studies to find genes involved in increased susceptibility to TB, and also genetic studies involving intermediate phenotypes which may point the way to genes contributing to the risk of contracting TB or determine the reaction to vaccines and TB drugs. Genome-wide studies such as admixture mapping are underway.


Dr Ian Wiid
E-mail: iw@sun.ac.za
Dr Ian WiidProf Ian Wiid is a senior researcher and heads a research group exploring unique genetic characteristics of M.tuberculosis and evaluating these characteristics as possible targets for new drug development. Other areas of research include M.tuberculosis survival under conditions of oxidative stress and also evaluating potential antituberculosis lead compounds for research collaborators nationally and internationally.

Dr Nico Gey van Pittius
E-mail: ngvp@sun.ac.za
Dr Nico Gey van PittiusProf Nico Gey van Pittius is an Associate Professor in Biomedical Sciences and has been working on Tuberculosis since 1998.  His research focuses on mycobacterial molecular epidemiology with specific focus on the evolution of the mycobacteria and of mycobacterial pathogenicity and drug resistance.  He is rated as a Y1 category researcher by the NRF and has received numerous honours, awards and grants, including the US Faculty of Health Sciences Award for Excellence in Research in 2008. He is a member of several institutional and review committees and forums, and belongs to numerous scientific societies, such as the ASM and the IUATLD.  He is an elected member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) as well as the South African Academy of Science and Art.  Prof Gey van Pittius has co-authored 50 papers and book chapters on various aspects of tuberculosis and is a co-inventor of numerous patents in the field.

Dr Bhavna Gordhan
E-mail: bhavna.gordhan@nhls.ac.zaDr Bavna Gordhan
Dr Bhavna Gordhan is a senior researcher at the Wits node of the CBTBR. She pioneered the development of methods for targeted gene knockout in M. tuberculosis and is responsible for the management of the CBTBR's three BSL3 laboratories and training of staff/students in mycobacterial genetics. Her research focus is to untangle and understand the expansion and functional redundancy of the various enzymes that constitute the base excision repair pathway in mycobacteria. Bhavna is a recipient of the MRC Career Development Award and has been rated by the NRF for two consecutive terms, which has allowed her to obtain funding from the NRF and NHLSRT to develop new lines of research and to support postgraduate student training.

Dr Digby Warner
Dr Stephanie Dawes Dr Digby Warner is a senior researcher at the University of Cape Town which constitutes the UCT node of the CBTBR. His interests lie primarily in mycobacterial physiology, in particular the mechanisms and regulation of DNA repair and replication in Mycobacterium tuberculosis and their role in the emergence of drug resistance, the physiological consequences of drug resistance, and the role of vitamin B12 and related cofactors in mycobacterial pathogenesis.

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© CBTBR 2006 | Last updated: 17 August, 2015