The ACGT database is a compilation of biosciences research skills, techniques and specialised equipment of scientists at the University of Witwatersrand, University of Pretoria, CSIR, University of Johannesburg and the Agricultural Research Council. ACGT is instrumental in creating an awareness of the regional research activities and programmes. It was created to stimulate coordination of research efforts between the partner institutions and provide a platform for future collaborations.

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Research Programme Detail

Research Programme NameEvolutionary Medicine Unit
Research Programme DescriptionThe Evolutionary Medicine Unit (EMU) uses an integrated and collaborative approach to tackle fundamental questions in molecular and cellular evolution, and applies these advances to our understanding of human disease. Evolutionary biology is experiencing a period of rapid growth with major conceptual and experimental advances being made (see “Do we need an extended evolutionary synthesis” by M Pigliucci, 2007). In addition, the value of using evolutionary principles to investigate disease is becoming apparent (see “The great opportunity: Evolutionary applications to medicine and public health” by RM Nesse and SC Stearns, 2007).Our work crosses the artificial boundaries of traditional disciplines. We use whatever approaches are appropriate, and have been known to develop new ones! Active collaborations with scientists in diverse fields and at other universities make this a highly dynamic, stimulating research group. Researchers with backgrounds in molecular and cell biology, ecology, evolution, biochemistry, bioinformatics, computational biology and medicine may find a home here. EMU occupies a newly renovated laboratory with access to all the basic equipment required for molecular biology research and is affiliated to the Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa EMU researchers investigate the molecular and cellular basis for evolutionary transitions and increase in biocomplexity, including the origins of the genome, multicellularity and programmed cell death. This is essentially a study of the molecular evolution of cooperation. Insights gained are often applied to our understanding of human disease. The volvocine algae are often used as a model system (for more information see the Volvocales Information Project at; however other organisms, tissues and viruses are used in our projects. For details regarding the interests of EMU researchers and collaborators please see
Research Programme Techniques
Research Programme KeywordsVolvocales, Volovocine algae, FIRE (Functional Interference using the Rates of Evolution), Bioinformatics, Programmed cell death, origin of life, Multicellularity, self replicating units (selfish genes
Research FieldEvolutionary Medicine
Responsible PersonDurand, Pierre

Associated Scientists

Last Name First Name Title E-mail Address Department & Institution
Durand Pierre Dr Molecular Medicine and Haematology, University of the Witwatersrand
Pathology, University of the Witwatersrand