School for Biological Sciences Research 2007
Since its official inception in January 2007, the University of Pretoria Water Institute (UPWI), under the leadership of the Head of the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology at the University of Pretoria and SERA Water Task Team leader, Prof Eugene Cloete, has seen unprecedented success in the achievement of its aim of providing a research and education platform for meeting the water challenges facing South Africa and the African continent in a sustainable manner. As a primary focus, the UPWI’s capacity-building initiatives have gained significant momentum with some 45 students currently enrolled at MSc and PhD level. This includes students from Kenya, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, Canada, Germany and Mozambique.
A biotechnology project coordinated by Prof Henk Huismans in the Department of Genetics entitled “Novel delivery system for animal vaccines based on recombinant virus proteins” has in 2007 been approved for a second three-year term for substantial funding by BioPad. The project is aimed at establishing a general-purpose vaccine delivery platform targeted at diseases with large economic importance such as foot-and-mouth disease, African horsesickness and bluetongue. Excellent results have been obtained in the first two-year stage of the project, using a novel vaccine display strategy in which the immunologically-important antigens are displayed on the surface of soluble, nano-sized protein complexes. The second phase of product development will focus on testing the vaccines in disease-susceptible animals, followed by challenge with virulent virus.
Prof Nigel Bennett of the Department of Zoology and Entomology was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Zoology, which is published by Blackwells for the Zoological Society of London.
In June, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it will fund a three-year project to sequence the genome of a eucalyptus tree as a potential bioenergy crop of the future. Prof Zander Myburg of the Department of Genetics at UP and also part of FABI (Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute) will be the principle investigator of the project which will involve contributions from more than 130 scientists in 18 countries that are members of the International Eucalyptus Genome Network (EUCAGEN).