ACGT success reflected in the latest publication records

The ACGT has been mentioned under authors’ affiliation in a variety of publications over the last 12 months. These include the following articles:

    • Berger, D.K., Crampton, B.G., Hein, I. and Vos, W Screening of cDNA Libraries on Glass Slide Microarrays. Methods in Molecular Biology 382 177-203 (2007).
    • Birkholtz, L,. van Brummelen A.C,. Clark K, Niemand J, Maréchal E, Llinás M and Louw A.I. Exploring functional genomics for drug target and therapeutics discovery in Plasmodia Acta Tropica 105 (2), 113-123 (2008).
    • Clark, K., Dhoogra, M., Birkholtz, L. and Louw, A.I. Transcriptional responses of Plasmodium falciparum to a-difluoromethylornithine-induced polyamine depletion. Biological Chemistry. 389(2), 111-125 (2008).
    • Crampton, B.G., Law, P., Coetzer, N.,Vos W. and Berger, D. K. Can genomics and bioinformatics be applied to studies of non-model plants such as pearl millet? South African Journal of Botany, 73 (2),279 (2007).
    • Law, P.J., Claudel-Renard C., Joubert, F., Louw,A.I. and Berger. D.K. MADIBA: A web server toolkit for biological interpretation of Plasmodium and plant gene clusters. BMC Genomics 9:105 (2008)
    • Morris, E.J. The Cartagena Protocol: Implications for regional trade, research and technology development in Africa. Development Policy Review, 26(1), 29-57 (2008).
    • Virgin, I., Bhagavan, M., Komen, J., Kullaya, A., Louwaars, N., Morris, E.J., Okori, P. and Persley, G. Agricultural Biotechnology and Small-scale Farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa. Stockholm Environment Institute Working Paper. ISBN 978-91-976022-1-1 (2007).

Many more publications from the CSIR, University of Pretoria and University of the Witwatersrand reflect the application of gene technologies in the partner institutions.

ACGT Represented on NEPAD SANBio Plant Genetic Resource Task Force

NEPAD Southern African Network forBiosciences (SANBio) has established a Task Force on the Enhancement of Capabilities of Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources in Southern Africa. The first meeting of this task force was held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, on 2-3 June 2008.

The objective of the task force is to assist in the development of a five year regional project to “enhance the capabilities of conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources in southern Africa”. This is one of the priority projects identified by the region aimed at ensuring sustainable food security and socioeconomic development of the people of the region.

The ACGT was represented at the meeting by Dr Jane Morris (ACGT Director) and Dr Ereck Chakauya (CSIR). Representatives were also present from gene banks in the SADC region.

The meeting participants noted that Conservation of plant genetic resources was a fast expanding field, especially with the advent of climate change, biotechnology and HIV/AIDS.· In order to fully safeguard our plant genetic resources it was recognized that there is a strong need to adopt new and robust technologies, including biotechnology, micropropagation, GIS, non destructive ways of determining moisture, cryostorage, molecular diagnostics, DNA Banking, bioinformatics, etc.

The meeting offered opportunities for presentations on the possible role of the ACGT and the CSIR in a gene banking initiative, with particular focus on DNA banking and bioinformatics, and the link between these and plant biotechnology research.

It was agreed that the Task Force should adopt a tight timetable for the development of a detailed project proposal. This process would be led by the SADC Plant Genetic Resource Centre (Ms. T Lupupa) and UKZN (Prof. Pat Berjak) as Project Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator respectively.

At the end of the meeting, participants were taken on a tour of the laboratory facilities at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

ACGT Travel Awards 2008

A number of travel awards were granted to young scientists in the ACGT partner institutions to enable them to travel to learn new techniques and upgrade their skills in the gene technologies.

The recipients of these awards are as follows:

Dr Tina Kresfelder, post-doc in the Dept of Medical Virology, UP. Visit to the Netherlands to learn techniques for the study of identify genetic polymorphisms that may be associated with severe respiratory disease in South African children.

Dr Amadi Ihunwo, School of Anatomical Sciences, Wits University. Partial funding for visit to Germany to learn stereology techniques in brain research for adult neural stem cell transplantation.

Riann Naguran, PhD student at Wits, based at NICD. Receive training in microarray data analysis from the ACGT microarray facility at UP, for analysis of molecular mechanisms of insecticide resistance in malaria mosquitoes.

Charlotte Mashaba, MSc student, CSIR Biosciences. Attendance of the 2nd annual proteomics and genomics conference on 3-5 March 2008 at University of Western Cape.

Jacqueline Brown, Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology, Wits University. Visit to Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT to learn techniques for the analysis of copy number data from Affymetrix microarrays for oesophageal cancer.

ACGT represented at Biovision Alexandria 2008

The ACGT was represented at the recent Biovision meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, by Dr Jane Morris and Dr Oleg Reva (ACGT Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit at the University of Pretoria). Both were invited speakers at the meeting. Prof Norman Casey, from the Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences at the University of Pretoria, also attended and acted as a rapporteur.

The meeting was held in the modern Library of Alexandria, and was the 4th international biennial conference to be held at the venue. The theme of the meeting was “From promises to practice” and focused on why the immense advances that are taking place in science do not adequately translate noticeable improvements in the lives of the poorest 20% of the human race.

The meeting was attended by over 1000 participants from all corners of the globe, including three Nobel Laureates. Some key issues addressed were the challenges of climate change, food production, health and neglected diseases, science in society, globalization and the need for societal responsibility. The impact of these factors on the developing world was a particular concern.

Dr Reva’s talk was entitled “Oligonucleotide Signatures of Pathogenic Microorganisms for Diagnostic Genetic Chips and Metagenomics”. His work focused on development of computer-based algorithms to address the problems of clustering and identification of environmental sequences generated by modern high-throughput sequencers. Discovery of unique oligos and patterns of infrequent oligos allowed for development of a tool to search the most appropriate DNA probes for use in diagnostic chips.

The talk by Jane Morris was given on behalf of the South African Malaria Initiative and addressed “Functional Genomics and Heterologous Expression of Plasmodial proteins as Tools Towards New Drugs Against Malaria”. She outlined the utility of new tools in functional genomics and gene expression to speed up the drug discovery process. Functional genomics has applications in drug discovery to determine the response of an organism to drug challenge and to validate new drug targets. At the same time, novel approaches are being developed to increase the number of putative Plasmodial drug targets that can be solubly expressed in heterologous systems.