SARChl Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control awarded to UP
By Martie Meyer
Posted on 04 March 2013
Prof Lyn-Marie Birkholtz
UP is one of the leading institutions in malaria research in South Africa, recognised for its focus on malaria parasite biology, functional genomics, structure-based drug discovery efforts, innovative vector control strategies and public health and community engagement.
This is just one of the many reasons why the University was awarded the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChl) Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control with a budget of R1,5 million per year, funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) through the National Research Foundation (NRF).
The Chair will be headed by Prof Lyn-Marie Birkholtz, an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and a member of the UP Centre for Sustainable Malaria Control (UPCSMC), as well as a member of the European Virtual Institute of Malaria Research. The Chair will be hosted within the UPCSMC. Prof Birkholtz is a leader in the discipline of antimalarial target discovery for sustainable malaria control. As chair holder, her expertise on the parasite will be used to investigate sustainable mechanisms to control not only the malaria parasite itself, but also its mosquito vector. It is envisaged to tightly link parasite, as well as mosquito vector, control through strategies aimed at sustainable physical and chemical interference of parasite transmission.
Malaria is responsible for almost a million deaths annually, 90% of which occur in Africa. Approximately 40% of the world’s population live in areas at risk of malaria transmission, and 10% of the South African population is at risk of contracting the disease. The vision of the UPCSMC is to make a substantial contribution towards the creation of a malaria-free Africa, and to do so in a sustainable manner by employing transdisciplinary strategies.
The SARChl Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control is very well aligned with the South African government’s 10-year strategy on several levels. South Africa’s National Research and Development Strategy, published in 2002, and the National Biotechnology Strategy for South Africa of 2001, both emphasised the importance of the biosciences and biotechnology as drivers of economic growth. In this context, the UPCSMC is working in partnership with the National Department of Health and the Chair will contribute to the National Malaria Programme’s aim to eliminate malaria in South Africa.
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