Contributors - University of Pretoria


  • Renate Zipfel

    Renate Zipfel
    11th May 2012

    Contributor: Renate Zipfel

    Background

    Renate Zipfel

    Renate Zipfel gained her MSc (Agric) in Molecular Genetics from the University of Pretoria in 2000. She has been the Manager and technical specialist of the DNA sequencing facility of the DNA Sequencing Laboratory in the Biological and Agricultural Science Faculty of the University of Pretoria since 2000.

    The DNA sequencing facility provides a service for DNA sequencing and analysis to the researchers and students associated with the University of Pretoria.

    Contact information

    Renate Zipfel, Tel: +27 12 420 5804/5, Fax: +27 12 362 5327

     

  • Professor Michael Wingfield

    Professor Michael Wingfield
    11th May 2012

    Background

    Prof Michael Wingfield was born in South Africa where he obtained his early education. In 1983, he completed his PhD in Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota, USA specialising in forest pathology and entomology. Back in South Africa, he established the first formal forest pathology programme in the country, to serve a rapidly expanding plantation industry. Together with industrial partners, he established the Tree Pathology Co-operative Programme (TPCP), which is now the foremost tree pathology group in the world. In 1998, he became the first director of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the University of Pretoria, which now houses the TPCP and other internationally recognised plant biotechnology programmes.

    He holds an A1 rating in the National Research Foundation (NRF) grading system, one of only fourteen in South Africa, and is a Fellow of scientific societies such as the Royal Society of South Africa and the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology. He is currently the Director of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the University of Pretoria.

    Research Interest

    Prof Wingfield’s interests are focused in the broad area of forest biotechnology. More specifically, his research group studies various aspects of pathogens, particularly fungi that are important to the forestry industries of South Africa and other countries of the world. His research group is particularly interested in those fungi that cause diseases of trees, degrade timber or that are potentially valuable in various aspects of the pulping process and in the production of industrially valuable compounds. We also have active projects dealing with insect pests in plantations. Prof Wingfield’s  research programme falls under the umbrella of the Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP) that is a cooperative venture between the University of Pretoria and all forestry companies in South Africa including Hans Merensky, Global Forest Products, NCT, CTC, TWK, Sappi, Mondi, Komatiland Forests, Mountain to Ocean, SA Forestry, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and the Institute for Commerical Forestry Research. As such, the team bears the responsibility for all forest protection issues in South Africa, covering an area of about 1.5 million hectares of plantation.

    Prof Wingfield’s  group is also particularly interested in e fungi, both at the ecological and molecular level are the notorious tree pathogens Chrysoporthe austroafricana (anamorph Chrysoporthella hodgesiana, ex Cryphonectria cubensis) that causes a serious stem canker disease of Eucalyptus, Diplodia pinea (Sphaeropsis sapinea) that devastates pine plantations after hail and species of Ceratocystis that cause a serious wilt diseases of trees, the pitch canker fungus Fusarium circinatum, Mycosphaerella spp. that infect leaves and needles, Botryosphaeria spp. that cause stem cankers, Cylindrocladium spp. that cause leaf blight , Armillaria root rot, Eucalyptus rust and others. Species of Ophiostoma (a group that includes the Dutch elm disease agent) have also been the subject of investigation for numerous years and are of special interest, not only for their role as tree pathogens but also for their potential value in pulp production and monoterpene bioconversions. Amongst the insects of greatest interest to me are the Sirex wood wasp (Sirex noctilio) and a wide range of bark beetles (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) that infest conifers.

    Prof Wingfield is also involved in a wide range of research projects both in South Africa and elsewhere in the world. These include those linked to the TPCP (see the TPCP section of this web site) and funded by the South African Forestry Industry together with various associated Government grants, international projects including those with the Chinese, Norwegian, Australian and Swedish Governments, and projects with forestry companies in Latin America and South East Asia.

    Other relevant information

    Prof Wingfield enjoys lecturing on tree pathology topics and does so internationally, where he also acts as an advisor to significant forestry organisations and universities. He has served in many distinguished positions and received numerous awards and honours for contributions to education and industry, in South Africa and elsewhere in the world. Some include the Chancellors Award of the University of Pretoria (2002), the Persoon Medal of the Southern African Society for plant pathology, which has only been awarded three times in 42 years, the Scientific Achievement Award of the International Union for Forestry Research Organisations (IUFRO), the distinguished alumnus award of the University of Minnesota and he was the first recipient of the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) national award for contributions to Science and Technology.

    He has published widely on this topic (in excess of 280 papers in internationally recognised peer review journals, three books and 480 presentations at national and international congresses), is a committed teacher and has been advisor or co-advisor of 26 MSc and 24 PhD students, many now independently recognised scientists.

    Contact information

    Prof Michael Wingfield, Tel: +27 12 420 3938/3939, Fax: +27 12 420 3960

     

  • Professor Brenda Wingfield

    Professor Brenda Wingfield
    11th May 2012

    Background:

    Prof Brenda Wingfield obtained her PhD at the University of Stellenbosch in 1989. She is currently a Professor in Genetics in the Department of Genetics  and Deputy Dean: Research and Post Graduate Studies at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

    Research interests

    Prof Wingfields research focuses on genetic variation within as well as between species. Thus, a certain component of the work done in her group could also be considered to be molecular taxonomy. She also has an interest in basic evolutionary biology based on ribosomal RNA-genes and this extends beyond fungi.Prof Wingfield has  a variety of collaborations with research groups working on a spectrum of different organisms. Much of this collaboration is in association with the tree pathology research group and the emphasis of this research has therefore been on important plant and tree pathogens. As part of our effort to deal with tree diseases, Prof Wingfield currently directs a programme aimed at detecting trait-linked markers in trees. This programme is supported by major players in South African Forestry.

    Prof Wingfield’s research group is also investigating the presence of dsRNA in South Africa’s more important tree pathogens with the view to using dsRNA as a means of biological control. Understanding the population diversity of a pathogen is an important aspect of being able to control the degree of disease and disease spread. The genetic diversity of a pathogen is not only determined by the genetic material in the fungal genome. Fungi also have extrachromosomal nucleic acid, the most common of which is dsRNA. In some fungi this dsRNA has been shown to be associated with hypovirulence. Various breakthroughs have already been made on this front.

    Contact information

    brenda.wingfield @ fabi.up.ac.za, Tel: +27 12 420 3946, Fax: +27 12 420 3947

     

     

  • Professor Jan Verschoor

    11th May 2012

    Contributor: Professor Jan Verschoor

    Background

    Jan Verschoor

    Prof Jan Verschoor is Professor and Head of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria.

    Research interests

    The immunology of human infectious diseases, specifically tuberculosis, AIDS and Guillian Barré Syndrome. Techniques covered are chemical isolation of bacterial lipids, monoclonal antibody production, development of immunoassays for serodiagnosis and research, in vitro testing of anti-mycobacterial agents, and biosensor technology to determine the quantitative binding properties of receptors and ligands.

    Other relevant information

    He is extensively networked with institutions in Europe, including the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands, University of Brussels and University of Gent in Belgium, University of Wales, Bangor, UK and in Africa with the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

    Contact information

    Prof Jan Verschoor, Tel: +27 12 420 2477, Fax: +27 12 362 5302

  • Dr Oleg Reva

    Dr Oleg Reva
    11th May 2012

    Background:

    Dr Oleg Reva obtained a PhD in Microbiology (taxonomy of endophytic Bacillus applicable for plant protection) in 1995 from the Institute of Microbiology and Virology in Kiev, Ukraine. He did his post-doc in Bioinformatics (functional genomics of stress response of Pseudomonas putida KT2440) in the lab of Klinische Forschergruppe at the Medizinische Hochschule Hannover in 2002-2004.

    Dr Reva joined the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit of the University of Pretoria as a NBN Node Manager in April 2006. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Bioinformatics at the University of Pretoria . He is also a member of the SABINA network.

    Research interests

    Dr Reva’s research interesests are in the development of new biostatistical algorithms and computer programs for functional and structural genomics. Namely: development of new biostatistical methods and computer programs for functional and structural genomics; in silico comparison and ‘linguistic’ analysis of bacterial genomes (see a newly published applet); bacterial response to stresses on the level of genome functionality and gene expression regulation; identification and annotation of mobile genome islands, islets, prophages, transposons and IS-elements; reconstruction of genome evolution in a historical perspective.

    Contact information

    Dr Oleg Reva (oleg.reva at up.ac.za), Tel: +27 12 420 5810, Fax: +27 12 420 5800

     

  • Professor Albert Neitz

    11th May 2012

    Professor Albert Neitz

    Background

    Prof Albert Neitz is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria.

    Research interests

    His main research interests are in tick research with regards to antigens for use in the development in anti-tick vaccines (ATV). These include antihemostatics, toxins and enzymes from tick tissue. Antimicrobial peptides investigated by Dr Anabella Gaspar, who is co- investigator in the ATV programme, may also be ATV candidates. Proteomics techniques are now being introduced into this research programme. The application of bioinformatics in the tick research programme has led to a first-time discovery: anticoagulants and toxins of the soft tick, Ornithodoros savignyican be grouped into two distinct and extensively described protein families.

    This breakthrough discovery has provided a link between tick proteins and a wealth of protein structure-activity and three-dimensional structural information as well as evolutionary relationships. Bioinformatics, therefore, has laid a significant framework for the design of tick-specific drugs and/or vaccines and application in human thrombocytic disorders.

    Contact information

    Prof Albert Neitz, Tel: +27 12 420 2990/2906, Fax: +27 12 362 5302

  • Professor Alexander (Zander) Myburg

    Professor Alexander (Zander) Myburg
    11th May 2012

    Background:

    Prof Alexander (Zander) Myburg is researcher and a member of the lecturing staff of the Department of Genetics at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He obtained his PhD in Genetics and Forestry at the North Carolina State University in the USA in 2001. He joined UP as a lecturer in 2001 and is currently an associate professor. He directs the Wood and Fibre Molecular Genetics Programme, a joint research and development venture between the University of Pretoria, Sappi Forest Products and Mondi Business Paper South Africa. He is also the coordinator of the International Eucalyptus Genome Network (EUCAGEN). Prof Myburg was recently awarded the prestigious National Research Foundation (NRF) President’s Award, for outstanding young researchers. Prof Myburg’s research group are also lead participants in the US Department of Energy (DOE) funded Eucalyptus Genome Project. As a contribution to this project,  they have recently used next-generation DNA sequencing technology to produce the first transcriptome sequence (more than 18,800 expressed genes) of a fast-growing Eucalyptus plantation tree in South Africa (http://eucspresso.bi.up.ac.za/).

    Research Interests

    Prof Myburg’s research programme (Forest Molecular Genetics, FMG) focuses on on the molecular genetics and genomics of wood formation (xylogenesis) in fast-growing plantation tree species. This process is fundamental to carbon fixation in woody plants and to the pulp and paper manufacturing processes of our industrial partners, Sappi and Mondi.  His research is also focussed on addressing important scientific questions such as the genetic control of carbon allocation into cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin, the major biopolymers in wood fibre.
    As part of his ongoing work on the molecular genetics of xylem development in Eucalyptus trees, his research group id  using a range of molecular biology and genomics technologies for (A) Gene discovery and functional genetics research (e.g. nextgen-transcriptome sequencing, microarray analysis, gene cloning, vector construction and plant transformation), (B) Population genomics research (genome and transcriptome mapping), and (C) the Development of molecular breeding tools (e.g. DArT, SSR and SNP markers) for the genetic improvement of trees.

    Prof Myburg is part of several active international collaborations one being; acollaboration  with Prof. Shawn Mansfield at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) to study the molecular biology of carbon allocation in fibre cell walls. Prof Myburg also actively involved in the Eucalyptus Genome Project and has in the past three years worked with the local Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit (Prof. Fourie Joubert) to develop bioinformatics capacity for high-throughput genomics. Most of the research activities in the FMG programme are funded as part of a joint research venture of the University of Pretoria, Sappi and Mondi. d

     Contact information

    Prof Zander Myburg, Tel: +27 12 420 4945, Fax: +27 12 420 3947

  • Professor Abraham (Braam) Louw

    Professor Abraham (Braam) Louw
    11th May 2012

    Abraham (Braam) Louw is an Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and continue his malaria research at the University of Pretoria on a contractual basis. He has an MSc (Agric) in Biochemistry (carbohydrate chemistry; 1965) and a DSc (Agric) in Biochemistry (1972, rat intestinal cholesterol regulatory mechanisms) from the University of Pretoria based on research conducted as a Research Associate at the Public Health Research Institute of the City of New York (1968-1971). As Specialist Scientist at the CSIR in South Africa (1971-1985) he investigated the sequence and structure-activity relationships of snake venom cardiotoxins. He joined the Department of Biochemistry at the University in 1985 and retired in 2006 as full professor.

    As principal investigator of the malaria research programme since 1997 he focuses primarily on homology structural modelling, the structure-activity properties of proteins in the polyamine metabolic pathway as potential drug targets, assessing drug resistance mechanisms as well as investigations of the genome-wide effects of selected inhibitors on parasite cultures by transcriptomics and proteomics methods. He has active collaborators in the UK, Sweden, Germany, France and Australia.

    A strong focus during his University career was on the establishment of core facilities such as the molecular biology (1995) and bioinformatics groups (1998; Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit-BCBU-officially launched at the University in 2003 and partially funded since 2004 by the National Bioinformatics Network of the Department of Science and Technology (DST)), the functional genomics group (2000) and the protein structural modelling infrastructure. He also organized the first Bioinformatics Workshop in South Africa in 1998. Another strong focus was on promoting communications, collaborations and exchanges on a national level and mentorship and development of the research career of young staff members, scientists and postgraduate students. He co-founded the South African Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SASBMB; formerly SA Biochemical Society) in 1973 serving as secretary, organizer or co-organizer of several national and international (SASBMB, IUBMB, FASBMB) meetings, chair of plenary sessions, Vice-President and President. He also co-founded in 1996 the Federation of African Societies of Biochemistry of Molecular Biology (FASBMB) in Kenya as Vice-President of SASBMB. His most recent innovation is the South African Malaria Initiative (SAMI, 2005) to consolidate malaria research activities in South Africa and to promote collaborations in defined, shared projects. SAMI has been funded by the DST since 2005 and served as a blueprint for the establishment of other networks such as for AIDS and TB. Braam was elected in 2010 as an honorary member of SASBMB and is a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNSP), the “Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns” (LAkad) and member of “LitNet Akademies (Natuurwetenskappe) se Adviesraad”.

    Principal research grants were obtained from the RF, MRC, DST and SAMI. His other awards include: an AusAID Occupational Traineeship, five UP Postdoctoral Fellowships, an UP Postgraduate Mentor Bursary Programme, two Mellon Foundation Mentoring Programmes; five UP Study Abroad Bursaries.

    He published 75 peer-reviewed papers including invited reviews, two invited book chapters, two full conference papers and two popular scientific articles. He was an invited speaker at SASBMB and FASBMB conferences, a CNRS/CSIR/NRF workshop, a WHO Special Programme for Research and Tropical Diseases and seminars presented at Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, UMIST, Manchester, UK, North-West University, Departments of Genetics and Chemical Pathology, UP. He made a further 105 and 85 poster/short talk contributions to national and international conferences.

    He acted as peer-reviewer of the quality of selected papers of the Australian National University (ANU); promotions of candidates at ANU, Universities of the Witwatersrand and Ghana; assessor of the MRC Malaria Research Lead Programmes and Biochemistry programme of the Universty of Stellenbosch; Adjudicator of the Women in Science Awards and TATA Bursaries; Grant applications to the Wellcome Trust and the Science Foundation of Ireland; rating and grant applications to the NRF and MRC. He regularly reviews manuscripts for Elsevier, ACS and BMC journals and was invited twice to act as guest editor for topical books on malaria. He was an invited delegate to a consultation meeting of the WHO/TDR in Geneva, a DST-IBSA meeting at Theresina, Brazil and a NRF-led Emory University/Scynexis consultation visit.

    He completed two Sabbaticals, one at Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA (1993-1994) and another at the University of Manchester Institute for Science and Technology (UMIST), Manchester, UK (2001). Twelve PhD and 28 MSc students completed their studies under his supervision.

  • Professor Karl Kunert

    Professor Karl Kunert
    11th May 2012

    Background:

    Professor Karl Kunert obtained his PhD in natural science at the University of Konstanz in Germany in 1976. He spent 13 years in the United Kingdom at the John Innes Institute in Norwich and the University of Oxford, and three years in France at the INRA in Versailles. In 1991 he joined AECI Ltd Research and Development in South Africa, and in 1998 he joined the University of Pretoria as Professor in Botany in the Botany Department and Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute. He was appointed full-Professor in the Botany Department in 1999. He has nearly 30 years experience in plant stress physiology, having gained his technical and managerial experience by working in different academic environments and also in industry. This includes the Universities of California (Davis, CA) and Konstanz (Germany), the John Innes Institute (Norwich, UK), INRA Versailles (Versailles, France) and the Research and Development Department of AECI Ltd (Johannesburg, South Africa).

    Having received several funds from both governmental agencies and industry during his career, he has developed an excellent understanding of the demands of the Plant Physiology/Biochemistry and Plant Molecular Biology sectors.

    Research interest

    Dr Kunnert’s work contributes to understand the mechanisms allowing plants of relevance to Africa to survive in these environments by being exposed to abiotic and biotic threats relevant to Africa. His research deals with improvement of survival of legumes under drought and to search for ways to delay senescence processes by manipulating the protease/protease inhibitor system.

    His research also deals with broad spectrum pathogen resistance in African crops. The systemic acquired resistance pathway plays a key role in conferring resistance to a broad range of pathogens in response to initial infection by a single pathogen. The non-expresser of pathogenic resistance (NPR) genes are key modulators of this pathway Dr Kunnert’s research aims to unravel the function and activation of these genes in Arabidopsis but also in crop plant species in which these genes have so far not been described (banana). Dr Kunnert envisages eventually using this information to better understand the crop’s response to pathogen infection and ultimately also use this information to design crops that can better withstand biotic stresses.

    Contact information

    Prof Karl Kunert, Tel: +27 12 420 3908 / 3909, Fax: +27 12 420 3960

  • Professor Fourie Joubert

    Professor Fourie Joubert
    11th May 2012

    Contributor: Professor Fourie Joubert

    Background

    Fourie Joubert

    Prof Fourie Joubert obtained his PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria in 2000. He is an Associate Professor at the University and currently also manages the Bioinformatics and Computational Unit in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria, which is an ACGT core facility. This Unit is also the National Bioinformatics Node in Gauteng, and is involved in research, training (post-graduate and short courses) and service provision.

    Research interests

    His current research focuses on functional genomics data management, the management of high throughput sequencing data, and data mining to select suitable drug target proteins in malaria.

    Contact information

    Prof Fourie Joubert, Tel: +27 12 420 5802, Fax: +27 12 420 5800