Prof. Tulio de Oliveira and Dr. Sikhulile Moyo have been selected for this year’s Time 100 Most Influential People list.
De Oliveira is a professor of bioinformatics and holds a joint appointment in the faculty of Stellenbosch University (SU) for Data Science and Computational Thinking, the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Moyo is a SU alumnus who received his PhD from the university in 2016 in medical virology and now serves as the laboratory director at the Botswana Harvard Aids Institute Partnership (BHP ).
The two scientists are being honored for their work in the field of genomics and epidemiology. In November 2021, they led the multidisciplinary team that discovered the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which quickly became the dominant variant of the virus worldwide.
The university said South Africans will agree on some of these occasion remember trouble. Originally dubbed the “SA variant,” their discovery led to stigma, travel bans, and significant public hostility towards De Oliveira and his team. However, it quickly became clear that although the variant had been discovered in South Africa, it was not from here and the safety measures appeared to be punitive rather than preventive.
This, says De Oliveira, was an important lesson that has shaped international responses to the pandemic ever since.
Other headlines have dubbed it the “Botswana virus” or the “South African variant” discovered by laboratories in Botswana and South Africa was discovered.
“It was a roller coaster of emotions to see how the world responded with travel bans for countries in southern Africa,” says Moyo.Understood by the negativity, the group of African scientists came together as a unified team and have generated more than 100,000 genomes in the past two years, SU said.
“This recognition by Time Magazine proves that Africa’s cutting-edge research has global implications, and establishes Prof. De Oliveira and Dr. Moyo as an international leader in her field,” says Prof. Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU Ellor.
“Her research and subsequent discoveries enabled governments worldwide to make science-based decisions about Covid-19 and the Omicron variant, and their inclusion in Time’s list is a just reward for their hard work and expertise.”
De Oliveira is the founding director of the university’s new Center for Epidemic Control and Innovation, for the he has already raised more than R300 million in funding. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards. These include the Gold Medal from the SA Medical Research Council, the Secretary of Health’s special Covid-19 award at the seventh national Batho Pele Excellence Awards in March 2022, and inclusion in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s prestigious Technological Review list of the top 10 technological ones Breakthroughs of 2022.
In addition to his position at BHP, Moyo is also a Research Fellow at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and an Associate Lecturer at the University of Botswana. He served as a member of Botswana’s Covid-19 Presidential Task Force and continues to contribute to that country’s national response.
One of his greatest contributions has been in the area of maternal-to-child HIV transmission studies, SU said. “These have had a significant impact on preventing HIV transmission, improving birth outcomes, HIV incidence, diversity and drug resistance, and on several pathogen genomics projects involving hepatitis, norovirus, sapovirus, human papillomavirus and tuberculosis.”
He is also a member of the steering committee of the PANGEA-HIV network, which analyzes the dynamics of the HIV epidemic and converts the results into information that can be used for more effective intervention.
< span>The University of Stellenbosch said both researchers are passionate about leading the fight against epidemics from an African perspective and stress the importance of local and international collaboration in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.< /p>
“The We can only be successful if we work together and continuously exchange ideas. Success in science comes from true collaboration,” said Moyo. “Working with leading scientists in Stellenbosch like Prof. De Oliveira and the Network for Genomic Surveillance in SA has been so fulfilling for me and exposed me to so much great, transparent science and capacity building.”
De Oliveira said: “Patience aside, the secret of leading networks is to create a group identity with a common goal for a common good.
“During the pandemic, we in SA reminded hundreds of researchers that we in are in a very strong position to respond scientifically because we have the facilities – most of them are built to deal with HIV and TB – and a lot of experience dealing with infectious viruses and respiratory pathogens. And we also have the willingness of our government to heed our scientific advice.”
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