Contributors - CSIR


  • Professor Dave Berger

    Professor Dave Berger
    10th May 2012

    Prof Dave Berger is a Professor in the Plant Science Department, Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the University of Pretoria. He obtained his PhD in Microbiology at the University of Cape Town in 1990. This was followed by a Postdoc at the University of California at Berkeley, USA (1991-1993) on “Biochemical studies of the transcriptional activator NIFA (Nitrogen fixation protein A) from Klebsiella pneumoniae”. He returned to South Africa and took up a position as senior researcher at ARC-Roodeplaat Vegetable and Ornamental Plant Institute, Pretoria (1993-2000), where he was involved in Agricultural Biotechnology projects, such as the first field trials of transgenic potato and maize developed in South Africa. He joined the University of Pretoria in 2000.

    Research interests

    Prof. Berger is leader of the Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions (MPPI) research group situated in the Plant Sciences Complex at the University of Pretoria. His research focuses on the molecular basis of plant-pathogen interactions and the mechanisms of plant defence using a range of approaches from whole plant phenotyping to functional genomics, as well as developing bioinformatics tools. Research projects mainly deal with the maize-grey leaf spot and Arabidopsis-bacterial wilt pathosystems. The MPPI group has particular experience in transcriptomics using microarrays, and is now increasingly using RNAseq.

    Other relevant information

    For more information about the MPPI research group click here (http://www.fabinet.up.ac.za/index.php/research-groups/molecular-plant-pathogen-interactions).

    Contact information

    dave.berger[AT]up.ac.za, Tel: +27 12 420 4634, Fax: +27 12 420 6668

     

  • Dr Robyn Roth

    Dr Robyn Roth
    10th May 2012

    Background:

    Robyn Roth obtained her undergraduate, Honours and Masters degrees in Microbiology at the University of Stellenbosch. She joined AECI Research & Development Department in 1997, which was amalgamated into the CSIR in 1998. She currently holds a position of Senior Researcher at CSIR Biosciences. Her areas of speciality include heterologous expression in prokaryotes and microbial eukaryotes (yeast, fungi), as well as traditional molecular biological techniques. These include optimisation of protein expression, protein purification, site-directed mutagenesis, among others.

    Research interests

    Current projects focus the use of molecular modeling and recombinant protein engineering to generate potential drug targets. Focus on the identification of enzyme targets for drug design in tuberculosis and malaria. Research currently involves expression of the desired proteins in heterologous hosts, and development of assays for testing inhibitor molecules.

    Contact information

    Robyn Roth, Tel: +27 11 605 2264, Fax: +27 11 608 3020

  • Dr Maretha O'Kennedy

    Dr Maretha O'Kennedy
    10th May 2012

    Background

    Dr Maretha O’Kennedy is a Specialist Scientist in cereal transgenics at CSIR Biosciences. Her key competence focuses on cereal genetic engineering to improve nutritional quality and disease resistance.

    Research interests

    Genetic engineering of cereal food crops (maize, pearl millet and sorghum) using Agrobacterium- and biolistic-mediated transformation to confer mainly fungal resistance and improved nutritional quality. Senior Scientist participating in the Africa Biofortified sorghum project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Successful application of a South Africa-UK Science Networks Exploratory visit (October 2008) to fund five senior scientists to visit Prof Peter Beyer, Dr Paul Fraser at the Royal Holloway, University of London, Prof Peter Shewry at Rothamsted Research and Prof David Baulcombe at the University of Cambridge.

    International and national activities and collaboration:

    Scientific coordinator of European Commission funded project entitled: “Genetic enhancement of nutritional quality of grain sorghum” (project number ICA4-CT-2000-30033) with partners from the UK, Israel, Ghana and Belgium.

    Partner in two additional international funded European Commission INCO-DEV 5th framework contracts ERBIC18-CT98 0316 and ICA4-CT-2000-30034 entitled: Genetic enhancement of pearl millet for downy mildew resistance” and “Genetic improvement of maize to enhance food safety by introducing resistance to Fusarium moniliforme/verticillioides”, respectively. Collaboration with partners from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, Italy, Ghana, Zambia, as well as ARC and University of Pretoria in South Africa.

    Scientific coordinator of a South African National Research Foundation (NRF) Innovation fund project entitled: “Genetic engineering of maize for increased tolerance to pests and pathogens indigenous to South Africa”, August 2002 – July 2005, collaborating with the University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria, and the Agricultural Research Counsel – Grain Crops Institute (ARC-GCI).

    Senior Scientist participating in the Africa Biofortified sorghum project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    Successful application of a South Africa-UK Science Networks Exploratory visit (October 2008) to fund myself and four accompanying senior scientists to visit Prof Peter Bramley and Dr Paul Fraser at the Royal Holloway, University of London, Prof Peter Shewry at Rothamsted Research and Prof David Baulcombe at the University of Cambridge.

    Contact information

    Dr Maretha O’Kennedy, Tel: +27 12 841 2535, Fax: +27 12 841 3651

     

  • Professor Jane Morris

    Professor Jane Morris
    10th May 2012

    Background

    Prof Jane Morris studied in Scotland, gaining a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of St Andrews, and a PhD, also in biochemistry, from the University of Aberdeen. Her research has included studies on polysaccharide degrading enzymes from anaerobic rumen bacteria, and microbial adhesion mechanisms.

    Co-founder, former Director of the ACGT and currently part time consultant to the organisation, Dr Jane Morris served as Director of the ACGT from 2002- 2011 and was  responsible for fundraising and liaison between the CSIR, University of Pretoria and University of the Witwatersrand in the genomics field. She seeks to promote the application of structural and functional genomics tools and techniques, including transcriptomics, proteomics and bioinformatics, to research projects in the partner institutions.

    For a number of years she managed biotechnology research in an industrial environment at AECI Ltd Research and Development, covering plant and microbial biotechnology, and gaining a good understanding of the requirements for commercialisation of biotechnology products. Following this, she moved into the role of strategic technology management in the CSIR.

    In seeking to advance the science and application of biotechnology in South Africa, Professor Morris has played an active role in biotechnology and bio-safety issues over many years and participated in various national and international programmes concerned with GMO safety. She has also been part of a number of South African government delegations promoting international collaborations in biotechnology. She represents the ACGT partner institutions in various science and technology forums. She chaired the steering committee of the South African Malaria Initiative (SAMI), and was instrumental in the establishment of the Carnegie-IAS funded Regional Initiative in Science and Education network SABINA (Southern African Biochemistry and Informatics of Natural Products).

    Current research interests

    As the new technologies involved in structural and functional genomics, including proteomics and bioinformatics, are embedded through the African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT), she is increasingly becoming involved in national and international consortium-based research programmes.

    Other relevant information

    As external evaluator/reviewer, she has, among other activities, acted as external evaluator of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s (SIDA’s) BIO-EARN programme, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) capacity building programmes under the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, and the South African Sugar Milling Research Institute.

    She was the assistant National Contact Point for the EU Framework Programme 7 Theme 2 (Food, Agriculture, Fisheries and Biotechnology) and has also acted as a reviewer for EU proposals.

    Prof Morris was recently honoured with the Lifetime Contribution Award at the 2012 Biotechnology Fundi Awards.

    Contact information

    Prof Jane Morris, Tel: +27 12 420 6007, Fax: +27 12 420 6103

     

  • Dr Maureen Louw

    Dr Maureen Louw
    10th May 2012

    Contributor: Dr Maureen Louw

    Background

    Maureen Louw  

    Dr Maureen Louw completed her BSc (Hons) in Microbiology at Rhodes University in 1978 and a PhD in Microbiology at the University of Cape Town in 1994. Her MSc entitled “Studies on the improvement of lysine production in the genera Brevibacterium and Corynebacterium” was obtained while employed at the CSIR and formed the basis of a collaborative agreement with industry leading to subsequent industrialization of lysine in South Africa.

    Research was also carried out in the fields of industrial and speciality enzyme production. This involved screening for suitable genetic material, cloning and sequencing genes of choice, plasmid stability studies and evaluating enzyme expression levels. Selected aspects of this research formed the basis of her PhD study, which included the interaction of a cloned signal-transduction operon on extra-cellular enzyme expression levels in Bacillus. She is currently employed as a Research Fellow at the CSIR Bio/Chemtek business unit.

    Research interests

    The focus of research for her PhD has been broadened to include the screening and cloning of B. thuringiensis crystal toxins as well as research into various aspects of food biotechnology. This involves research into the molecular genetic systems of Lactobacillus, Micrococcus and Corynebacterium. In addition, bacterial metabolic by-products with applications in the food industry have been investigated, including trehalose, vitamin C, cholesterol oxidase and phytase.

    Another focus area is DNA shuffling or directed evolution as well as in the development of a novel surface display system for Gram-positive micro-organisms. Research in these areas has led to contract research commitments from two major US based biotechnology companies.

    Contact information

    Dr Maureen Louw, Tel: +27 12 841 2167, Fax: +27 12 841 2185

  • Dr Colin Kenyon

    Dr Colin Kenyon
    10th May 2012

    Background

    Dr Colin Kenyon studied biochemistry at Rhodes University and the University of the Free State, then worked in industrial R&D for many years, where he managed the research project for the development of a commercial process to manufacture L-lysine by fermentation. He joined the CSIR in 1998 and is currently a Research Fellow at the CSIR Bio/Chemtek business unit. Dr Kenyon is also an Extraordinary Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria and an Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of York, England.

    Research interests

    His research interests focus on enzyme reaction mechanisms and molecular modelling, with particular emphasis on protein engineering, bacterial metabolism and carbon and nitrogen flux. An understanding of reaction mechanisms of key enzymes of interest has led to applications in areas as diverse as rational drug design, design of putative new HIV vaccine strategies, and novel methods for controlling microorganisms involved in cooling tower corrosion.

    Other relevant information

    Dr Kenyon’s particular areas of expertise include:

    • Random mutagenesis of bacteria to produce auxotrophic mutants and mutants with altered enzyme regulation.
    • Definition of the catalytic mechanisms involved in the reactions of the enzyme glutamine synthetase.
    • Protein molecular modelling, site directed mutagenesis and enzymology used in protein engineering.
    • Protein purification and structural analysis.
    • Structural analysis of ATP divalent metal complexes.
    • Batch, fed-batch and continuous culture of yeasts and bacteria in fermentation process definition.
    • Managed projects investigating the production of antibiotics and enzymes.
    • Part of project teams in the definition of effluent treatment processes for the petrochemical industry.

    Contact information

    Dr Colin Kenyon, Tel: +27 11 605 2702, Fax: +27 11 608 3020

     

  • Dr Igle Gledhill

    Dr Igle Gledhill
    10th May 2012

    Contributor: Dr Igle Gledhill

    Background

    Igle Gledhill

    Dr Igle Gledhill was born and grew up in Grahamstown, and discovered the joys of Physics at Rhodes University, obtaining her BSc (Honours) in Physics with distinction in 1977. She went on to complete a PhD in Plasma Physics at the University of Natal in 1983. For the next four years until 1987 she modelled plasma behaviour: gases at the temperatures of the stars, and worked on plasma fusion, why the space shuttle glows (under ordinary conditions), and why galaxies are galaxy-shaped as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of California and Stanford University in the US. Currently she is a Fellow in the Defence Technology business unit (Defencetek) of the CSIR.

    Current research interest

    Dr Gledhill spends half her time specialising in transonic aerodynamics at Defencetek’s Aeronautics Programme, determining what happens to airflow at the speed of sound, and using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to gain insight. She is currently working on the aerodynamics of manoeuvre. As a Defencetek Fellow, her primary responsibilities are technical, but she also has a role in some of Defencetek’s strategic initiatives, including technology for peace support, and humanitarian de-mining in regions infested with land mines.

    Other relevant information

    She is President of the SA Association for Theoretical and Applied Mechanics and Chairs the SA National Committee for International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. She also holds membership of the Advisory Panel on Control Systems in Competitive Industry for National Research Foundation (NRF) and of the International Panel on Shaping the future of physics in South Africa, a process for review and foresight developed by the SA Institute of Physics (SAIP), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), and NRF. She is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

    Contact information

    Dr Igle Gledhill, Tel: +27 12 841 2769, Fax: +27 12 349 1152

  • Dr Dusty Gardiner

    Dr Dusty Gardiner
    10th May 2012

    Background

    Dr Dusty Gardiner completed his PhD in Biochemistry at Rhodes University in 1989 specialising in biochemistry. From there, he joined AECI Research and Development (R&D) in Modderfontein, Johannesburg focusing on, inter alia, microbial metabolism and enzyme catalysis mechanisms. After six years in a vibrant research environment, he moved to the AECI Bioproducts lysine production facility, focusing on fermentation process technology, with particular emphasis on process scale-up and commercial scale technology development and implementation.

    In 1999 he joined CSIR Bio/Chemtek, and was responsible for a diverse group of 95 researchers (and support staff) working in areas ranging from plant biotechnology to process and product development (fermentation and biocatalysis). The application of genomic, proteomic and informatic technologies is actively harnessed within the programme to generate new opportunities and enhance the competitiveness of the programme.

    In 2005, he became Research Manager, CSIR Biosciences and was responsible for R&D in drug discovery and industrial process development.

    In 2009 Dr gardiner served as acting Executive Director  of CSIR Biosciences Unit

    His experience and skills include process and product development and scale-up, process and product commercialisation and intellectual property development, packaging and commercialisation. Technically he has been involved in enzyme characterisation, fermentation and microbial metabolism and biocatalysis.

    Other relevant information

    He has been advisor or co-advisor for post-graduate students at Rhodes University and University of the Free State, and was appointed as a Research Associate at Rhodes University.

    He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Cape Biotechnology Trust and as a Director of Mbuyu Biotechnology (Pty) Ltd. He was also  involved in the Industrial Biotechnology Roadmapping Task Team of the Department of Science and Technology and is a member of the South African Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

    Contact information

    , Tel: +27 11 605 2201 or Tel +27 12 841 3508, Fax: +27 11 608 3020

     

  • Erika du Plessis

    Erika du Plessis
    10th May 2012

    Contributor: Erika du Plessis

    Background

    Erika du Plessis

    Erika du Plessis is a Scientist at the CSIR BioSciences business unit.

    Research interests

    Her research focus is the expression/secretion of heterologous enzyme genes in gram-positive host strains, specifically Bacillus subtilis, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactococcus, as well as the construction of vectors for the over-expression of genes of interest.

    Other relevant information

    She has published five articles in international scientific journals and presented numerous lectures at International and National conferences.

    Contact information

    Erika du Plessis, Tel: +27 12 841 2192, Fax: +27 12 841 2185

  • Bridget Crampton

    Bridget Crampton
    10th May 2012

    Background

    Dr Bridget Crampton completed her BSc and BSc Honours at the University of the Witwatersrand, before moving to the University of Cape Town to read for a Masters degree in Molecular Microbiology. Thereafter, she worked at CSIR Biosciences for twelve years in the Plant Biotechnology group where she was involved in various projects including micropropagation of indigenous plant species, Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of legume species, and expression of pharmaceutically important proteins in plants. Whilst at the CSIR, she was afforded the opportunity to do a PhD, which she obtained from the University of Pretoria in 2006. The focus of her PhD project was to elucidate defence response mechanisms in pearl millet, an indigenous African crop. She employed various gene expression technologies including suppression subtractive hybridisation, cDNA microarray expression profiling and quantitative real time PCR to examine pearl millet’s response to the defence signalling compounds methyl jasmonate and salicylic acid, as well as infection with Puccinia substriata, the causal agent of rust.

    She was rewarded with two prestigious awards by her peers at the South African Association of Botanists (SAAB) conference in 2008. Dr Crampton clinched a medal for the best plant-related PhD thesis in Africa and the best poster award for a poster resulting from her research in plant biotechnology and physiology.

    Dr Crampton is currently a post-doctoral research fellow in the Molecular Plant Pathogen Interaction Group at the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI). Her current research interests are centred on grey leaf spot (GLS) in maize. GLS, caused by the fungus Cercospora zeina, is an important emerging threat to maize production in southern Africa. She is part of a project team that is studying the molecular basis of quantitative resistance to GLS in maize through the application of eQTL analysis. Candidate genes contributing to disease resistance will be tested for function through over or under expression in transgenic maize. In addition, she wishes to understand maize’s early response to C. zeina through infection with C. zeina expressing a fluorescent protein. This will enable her to specifically isolate cells directly in contact with the fungus as opposed to the standard approach of studying gene expression in a whole infected leaf.

    Contact information

    +2712 9988411