The Principal Investigators make up the CIDRI-Africa Steering Committee.
Honorary Professor Robert J Wilkinson: Director
Professor Digby Warner: Basic Science Platform Lead
Professor Nicola Mulder and Professor Andrew Boulle: Biomedical Data Integration Platform Co-leads
Professor Graeme Meintjes: Clinical Research Platform Lead
Professor Clifton Barry
Professor Frank Brombacher
Professor Gary Maartens
Professor Helen McIlleron
Professor Valerie Mizrahi
Professor Thomas Scriba
Professor Carolyn Williamson
Emeritus Investigator: Professor Mark Nicol
Robert J Wilkinson is a Wellcome Senior Fellow in Clinical Science held as Professor of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London, and a senior Group Leader at The Francis Crick Institute London. He holds an Honorary professorship in Medicine in the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and directs the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa at the University of Cape Town. Wilkinson’s research interest is understanding tuberculosis and HIV-associated tuberculosis.
Digby Warner leads the MRC/NHLS/UCT Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit (MMRU), which constitutes the University of Cape Town node of the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research, and is an Associate Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine. His research interests lie 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 co-factors in mycobacterial pathogenesis.
Professor Mulder heads the Computational Biology Division at the University of Cape Town, and leads H3ABioNet, a large Pan African Bioinformatics Network of ~30 institutions in 17 African countries. H3ABioNet aims to develop bioinformatics capacity to enable genomic data analysis on the continent by developing and providing access to skills and computing infrastructure for data analysis. Prior to her position at UCT, she worked for 9 years at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) in Cambridge, as a Team Leader for bioinformatics resources. At UCT her research focuses on genetic determinants of susceptibility to disease, African genome variation, microbiomes, microbial genomics and infectious diseases from both the host and pathogen perspectives. Her group also provides bioinformatics services for the local researchers, through which they develop visualization and analysis tools for high-throughput biology. Her team has also been involved in the development of new and improved algorithms for the analysis of complex African genetic data as well as for downstream analysis and interpretation of GWAS data. Professor Mulder is actively involved in training and education as well as curriculum development in bioinformatics and genomic medicine.
Andrew Boulle is a Public Health Specialist with the Western Cape Department of Health and Professor in Public Health Medicine at the University of Cape Town. He co-leads the data integration platform for CIDRI-Africa, focussing on clinical and population health questions which can be addressed through routine clinical and administrative data, and data platform innovations for the linkage of routine data with clinical research and experimental data.
Within government he oversees the development of a consolidated environment for person-level health data, which also functions as an information exchange for selected clinical information systems. He leads the African Health Information Exchange (AHIE) project, which develops interoperability solutions in support of services for HIV and TB and other priority health conditions.
A dominant focus of his academic work has been on HIV cohort epidemiology. He is the principal investigator of the Khayelitsha HIV cohort and part of the IeDEA-SA data centre.
Graeme Meintjes is a Professor of Medicine, Wellcome Fellow and SARChI Chair of Poverty-related Infections at the University of Cape Town. He is an Infectious Diseases Physician who undertakes consultant clinical work at Khayelitsha and Groote Schuur Hospitals. His research focuses on the clinical conditions affecting patients with advanced HIV disease including disseminated HIV-associated tuberculosis, the tuberculosis-associated immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (TB-IRIS) and cryptococcal meningitis. His group also investigates drug-resistant tuberculosis. He has been the PI or local PI of several clinical trials and conducts observational cohort studies that address questions related to disease pathogenesis. Recently, he was PI of the EDCTP-funded PredART trial that demonstrated that prednisone was effective and safe for the prevention of TB-IRIS in patients at high-risk starting ART. He has contributed to the development of management guidelines for HIV, TB and cryptococcal meningitis at a provincial and national level and World Health Organization Guideline Development Groups.
Professor Brombacher moved to South Africa from Germany in 1998 to join UCT, where he established an extramural South African Medical Research Council Unit in 2000. In 2005, he became a UCT “Fellow for Life” and South African Research Chair and Coordinator at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Cape Town component). He is A-rated by the NRF.
His group’s main research focus is the understanding of host protective immune responses in human diseases. The group investigates important regulatory mechanisms—including pattern recognition receptors and cytokine network and cellular crosstalk during innate immunity—which may lead to subsequent adaptive immunity or failure thereof. Their strategy is centred on a “gain of knowledge by loss of function” approach based on deficient mouse models generated by gene targeting in embryonic stem cells. The group works on experimental mouse models for TB, leishmaniasis, and trypanosomiasis, as well as helminth infections and schistosomiasis, and have additional interests in allergic conditions such as asthma and food-related allergies.
Professor Brombacher studied Biology at the Alberts-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Germany, and completed his PhD in Molecular Immunology at the Max Planck Institute in 1989.
Gary Maartens is head of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and a chief specialist physician (internist) at Groote Schuur hospital, where he does clinical service in internal medicine and infectious diseases. His main research interests are in therapeutic aspects of HIV-associated tuberculosis, drug-resistant tuberculosis, and antiretroviral therapy in resource-limited settings. He has published over 200 peer reviewed articles, including invited seminars on both tuberculosis and HIV for the Lancet. In 2015 he was awarded a gold medal for outstanding contributions to medical research by the Medical Research Council of South Africa. He was the founding president for the College of Clinical Pharmacologists. He has been involved in international guideline development for the management of HIV and tuberculosis for the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He serves on the Tuberculosis Transformative Science Group of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, National Institutes of Health.
Based in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Cape Town, Prof Helen McIlleron (MBChB, PhD) has lead and collaborated on multiple PK and PK/PD studies of anti-TB drugs and antiretrovirals in adults and children with focus on TB/HIV co-infection and special populations. I strongly believe in the development of investigator driven research for these diseases with the application of analytical tools facilitating research to optimize treatment in the relevant populations.
Valerie Mizrahi is director of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine at UCT. She also leads the MRC/NHLS/UCT Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit, co-directs the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research, and was a Senior International Research Scholar of the HHMI from 2012-2017. Her research focuses on aspects of the physiology and metabolism of Mycobacterium tuberculosis of relevance to TB drug resistance, mycobacterial persistence and TB drug discovery. Valerie holds an A1 rating from the NRF. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, African Academy of Science and Royal Society of South Africa, an Associate Fellow of TWAS, and Member of the Academy of Science of SA. Her awards include the 2013 Christophe Mérieux Prize from the Mérieux Foundation and Institut de France; Order of the Mapungubwe (Silver) in 2007; 2017 Platinum Medal from the SAMRC, and 2000 Unesco-L’Oréal For Women in Science Award (Africa & Middle East).
Mark Nicol is a medical microbiologist who holds the Wernher and Beit Chair of Medical Microbiology at the University of Cape Town and the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) of South Africa. He studied medicine and medical microbiology at the University of the Witwatersrand and completed his PhD in childhood tuberculosis in Cape Town. His research interests are in the pathogenesis and diagnosis of respiratory infection in children, evaluation and implementation of novel diagnostic tests for tuberculosis, the cascade of care for patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis and the human microbiome.
Professor Scriba is an immunologist and heads a team of clinical immunologists, post-doctoral fellows and postgraduate students at UCT where he is a Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine; he is also Deputy Director (Immunology) at the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI). SATVI’s mission is the development of new and effective prevention strategies against TB, including vaccination and biomarker-targeted treatment approaches. His particular interests focus on immunopathology of mycobacterial infection and TB disease, correlates of risk of M. tuberculosis infection and TB disease, immunological development in childhood, and novel TB vaccine development. He has been co-investigator on more than 15 phase I/II/IIb clinical trials of novel TB vaccines, and has led the design and immunological analyses of vaccine-induced T cell responses for most of these. In the last 5 years he has also been leading studies of correlates of risk of TB in different cohorts.
Carolyn Williamson is Head of Division of Medical Virology; Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM); Member of the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa (CIDRI-Africa); and a Research Associate of the Centre for AIDS Research in South Africa (CAPRISA).
Carolyn Williamson’s research is focused on HIV-1 basic and translational research aimed at informing vaccines discovery, biomedical interventions, and a cure. She is interested in understanding mechanisms of transmission, B and T cell epitopes, immunogen design, and elucidating mechanisms of protection through the characterising HIV-1 breakthrough infections in HIV vaccine, microcode and passive immunization trials. She is also involved in research characterising latent reservoirs in HIV-1 infected women. Carolyn has published over 150 peer review articles and has extensive experience in mentoring Honours, MSc and PhD candidates, as well as early career investigators. Carolyn participates in numerous multi-centre national and international studies including the Centre for AIDS Programme for Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery (CAVD), the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), and the Medical Research Council (MRC) Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships (SHIP).