In September 2013, CIDRI called for applications for funding for medium to large sized equipment and facilities that would support collaborative and interdisciplinary research into Infectious Diseases. It was anticipated awards would be in the region of ZAR 500,000 to ZAR 1 million.
Eight proposals for equipment were received. These were ranked by the Steering Committee according to the guidelines advertised. The final selection resulted in the award of four equipment systems that will benefit multiple users in the field of Infectious Diseases research.
The total awarded was R3.42 million.
The awards went to:
Associate Professor Katalin Wilkinson –
CIDRI in the IDM
Equipment: BIORAD Multiplex Assay System
Professor Jonathan Blackburn and Dr Nelson da Cruz Soares –
Medical Biochemistry in IDM
Equipment: Thermo Scientific Nano System
Professor Carolyn Williamson and Dr Colin Anthony –
HIV Diversity, Medical Virology, IDM
Equipment: BIORAD QX200 droplet digital PCR system
Dr Bert Mohr –
Research Animal Facility, Faculty of Health Sciences
Equipment: Cabinet Washer
Dr Molebogeng Rangaka, MBChB, Hasso Plattner Fellow of the IDM, was recently awarded the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine's (LSHTM) prestigious Woodruff Medal for her PhD thesis.
The Woodruff Medal is awarded each year to an outstanding research student completing a doctoral thesis with preference being given to clinical studies of patients, and to work likely to lead to the alleviation of suffering in tropical or developing countries. The Medal is presented in memory of Professor Alan Woodruff (1916-1992) who held the Wellcome Chair of Clinical Tropical Medicine in the School for many years.
Dr Rangaka's PhD was entitled Isoniazid plus antiretroviral therapy to prevent tuberculosis: a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial, and was based on research conducted in Khayelitsha, testing and treating tuberculosis infection in the ART era. Dr Rangaka was supervised by Prof Judith Glynn, LSHTM, and co-supervised by Assoc Professor Katalin Wilkinson (CIDRI, IDM) and Dr Katherine Fielding, LSHTM.
During her PhD she held a Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellowship for Scientists from Developing Countries. At UCT with Hasso Plattner funding, she is now hosted by Associate Professor A Boulle, Centre of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research; and also holds an Honorary Clinical Lectureship (2013) at University College London and Public Health England (PHE, formerly the Health Protection Agency), TB Section, with Professor Ibrahim Abubakar.
A paper emanating from her thesis is now in press (The Lancet):
Molebogeng X Rangaka, Robert J Wilkinson, Andrew Boulle, Gilles van Cutsem, Shaheed Mathee, Judith R Glynn, Katherine Fielding, Rene Goliath, Raylene Titus, Eric Goemaere, and Gary Maartens for the ART plus IPT Study Team. Isoniazid plus antiretroviral therapy to prevent tuberculosis: a pragmatic randomized placebo-controlled trial.
Associate Professor Graeme Meintjes of the Department of Medicine, UCT, and Member of the IDM has received the European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) Rising Star Africa Award for 2013.
This award is given in recognition of outstanding achievements in medical research by a young investigator. Meintjes is an Adult Infectious Diseases Physician and scientist, and a protégé of Professor Robert Wilkinson (CIDRI, IDM). He has been active in the field of HIV and tuberculosis research since 2004 after obtaining his sub-specialist qualification in Infectious Diseases.
His major contribution towards knowledge and impact on clinical practice has been his research on the tuberculosis-associated immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (TB-IRIS). This is a frequent early complication of antiretroviral therapy in Africa, where prevalent TB at the time of starting ART is common. Meintjes was the lead investigator on the randomized placebo-controlled trial of prednisone for the treatment of TB-IRIS which demonstrated that prednisone provides benefit in terms of reduced hospitalization and improvement in symptoms. This was the first clinical trial of IRIS treatment and this evidence has been incorporated into national and international guidelines. His work has defined the diagnostic approach to TB-IRIS, highlighting the importance of excluding drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Another major research focus has been cryptococcal meningitis. Meintjes has collaborated with researchers from St Georges Hospital, London, since 2005 on trials aimed at improving initial treatment of cryptococcal meningitis. As a result of this research he was asked to be a member of the World Health Organization's Guidelines Development Group for Guidelines on the Diagnosis, Prevention and Management of Cryptococcal Infection in Adults and Children; thereby impacting policy and clinical practice in Africa.
In the midst of a number of fellowships including two Wellcome Trust fellowships (Training fellowship in 2007 and Intermediate Fellowship in 2012), plus international collaborations, Meintjes is also a Member of the Royal College of Physicians of Glasgow and an Honorary Clinical Lecturer at Imperial College London.
Clinical workers have been sharing one consulting room for the past few years, but as their research projects grew it became evident that more space was needed. Application was made to the province to build on 4 extra consulting rooms to the existing UBUNTU Clinic. With the support of the Site B Day Hospital management committee this process was started.
On the 6th September 2013 we opened the new consulting rooms, a filing room and phlebotomy room, we also continue to use one consulting room in the UBUNTU clinic. These improved facilities have made a positive impact on the current CIDRI research projects and will allow for better planning of future projects. All these extra rooms have been networked as part of the UCT network and the unit, now known as the Home of UBuntu Based research (HUBB), has been fully equipped to function as a research unit that is able to support clinical research of an excellent standard.
Professor Robert J Wilkinson Director of CIDRI, Associate Professor Graeme Meintjes, senior researcher and Principal Investigator, Dr Jan Kunene, UBUNTU Medical Officer, Professor Valerie Mizrahi, Director of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town.
HUBB clinic staff, researchers and students
In December 2012, the CIDRI Director, Professor Robert J Wilkinson, on behalf of the Steering Committee, applied for a two year extension of the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award. The CIDRI Strategy Manager, Dr Yolande Harley, assisted with the preparation of the application.
As part of the assessment by the Wellcome Trust, a delegation of senior Wellcome Trust representatives from the International Activities Division in London, visited the CIDRI site based in the IDM at UCT and the clinical site at Khayelitsha Site B. Two external assessors also joined the group.
The site visitors were:
Dr Anne Johnson - Wellcome Trust Governor
Dr Jimmy Whitworth - Head of Wellcome Trust
Dr Alice Norton - Wellcome Trust
International Activities Advisor
Professor Daniel Colley - Director of Center for Tropical and Emerging Diseases, University of Georgia, USA
Dr Samuel Adjei - Consultant from Ghana Health Service.
On arrival in Cape Town, the site visit team was welcomed by the Initiative Manager, Kathy Wood, who facilitated the arrangements for the visit. The visitors were invited to a reception and poster session in the conference centre at the Vineyard Hotel. This event was attended by members of the CIDRI Steering Committee, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, Dr Max Price, five CIDRI award holders as well as four holders of personal Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellowships, all of whom were based at the University of Cape Town. This event gave the site visitors an opportunity to view some of the research sponsored by CIDRI as well as engage in discussions with the students and the Steering Committee.
The Steering Committee includes established members as well as "New Generation" research leaders such as Professor Mark Nicol, Associate Professors Graeme Meintjes, Jo-Ann Passmore, Andrew Boulle, Helen McIlleron and Drs Darren Martin and Thomas Scriba.
The following day centred around a Symposium held in the Wolfson Pavilion Lecture Theatre in the IDM.
After presentations from Professor Valerie Mizrahi, the IDM Director, and Professor Robert J Wilkinson, the CIDRI Director, twelve CIDRI Fellows and five Wellcome Trust Fellows delivered presentations to the visitors as well as interested staff, students and members of the IDM.
Small group and feedback meetings were held between the visitors, Professor Robert J Wilkinson and Professor Valerie Mizrahi at intervals during the day. The visitors questioned and assessed the aims and outcomes of the initiative as well as the experiences of the students.
On the third day, the site visit team was taken to visit the CIDRI clinical sites at GF Jooste Hospital in Manenberg, the Ekhayavac clinic at Khayelitsha site B and the newly built, Khayelitsha District Hospital. This was followed by further discussion between the visitors and the hosts.
The site visit team left CIDRI with a decision to recommend renewal for a further two years to the Strategic Awards Committee at the Wellcome Trust. This committee met in April 2013 and confirmed the offer of renewal. A no cost extension on the original award was also granted, to run concurrently for seven months with the new award, until 31st December 2013.
Post doctoral and clinical fellowships will be advertised in the second half of 2013 with activation of the awards in January 2014.