KeyNote Speakers

Professor Glenda Gray

President and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)

TIME has named Glenda Gray, Full Professor: Research, in the School of Clinical Medicine at Wits, among the top 100 most influential people in the world.

Professor Glenda Gray has pioneered advances in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, which has saved thousands of lives. She is an alumna of Wits Medical School and established the Wits Perinatal HIV Research Unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in 1996. She is currently President and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and involved in HIV vaccine research.

Gray was born in South Africa and graduated as a medical doctor from Wits in 1986. In 1992 she qualified as a paediatrician from the College of Medicine South Africa.  Internationally acclaimed for her work in HIV research, Gray has broken new boundaries, redefined scientific excellence and pioneered groundbreaking medical research that has shaped global communities and saved lives. “Placing people at the centre of health research is the fuel for ensuring impact”, says Gray.  

While at the helm of the country’s medical research council, the custodian for health research in South Africa and globally known for its strategic impetus to respond to South Africa’s burden of disease, Gray also chairs the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases to lead research collaborations on chronic diseases worldwide. Her leadership style has enabled the SAMRC to acquire three consecutive clean audits, redirect resources to invest significantly in research in historically under-resourced universities and elevate the research agenda to build the next generation of black medical scientists in the country.

Gray’s story over the years is nothing shy of dedication, commitment, and passion for addressing health issues that have and still affect South Africans.  In 1996, together with James McIntyre, she co-founded the Perinatal HIV Research Unit (HPRU) based in Soweto where they developed a world renowned unit focused on HIV prevention and treatment.  In 2002, when the South African government propagated AIDS denialism and HIV-infected women antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to prevent transmission to their babies, Gray and McIntyre were awarded the Nelson Mandela Health & Human Rights Award for their work in response to this challenge. 

Globally the medical community took note of their work and in 2003, in recognition of their research and advocacy to bring lifesaving antiretroviral therapy to mothers and people in need, Gray and McIntyre received the Heroes in Medicine award from the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC).

“When you give a child an opportunity to grow up free of ill health, you give them hope to define a destiny of their own,” says Gray, recalling how HIV took from South African mothers the joy of seeing their children grow up. 

One of the highest orders in South Africa, the Order of Mapungubwe, was bestowed by the President on Gray for her life-saving research in mother-to-child transmission of HIV that changed the lives of mothers and their children and served the interests of South Africans. Since then Gray has been on a trajectory that has led her to becoming an internationally recognised leader in global health.       

In the mid- 2000s Gray saw that the only path to an AIDS-free generation was in the development of potent biomedical interventions. She thus turned her attention to HIV vaccine research, believing it was critical to ending the HIV epidemic, and focused her research on investigating potential HIV vaccine candidates.  As, the Co-Principal Investigator (PI) of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) funded HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), an international network that conducts over 80% of the clinical trials of candidate HIV vaccines globally, she provides leadership at a global level with the HVTN PI, Larry Corey, and Co-PI, Scott Hammer.

Most notably, she spearheaded the clinical development of the South African AIDS Vaccine initiative’s HIV vaccines, the SAAVI DNA/MVA candidates and conducted the first trial using these candidate vaccines in South Africa and the United States. In November 2016, an ambitious programme was announced to evaluate an HIV vaccine regimen in South Africa that, if successful, could be the first HIV vaccine to be licensed globally. Gray and her team are leading this trial - HVTN 702 - the first HIV vaccine efficacy trial in seven years.



Profesor David Bates, PhD.

Professor of Microvascular Biology and Medicine

Scientific Director, Microvascular Research Laboratories, School of Physiology and Phar-macology, University of Bristol,
During my PhD I identified for the first time that fluid filtration into the arm was a key contibutor to breast cancer related lymphoedema (Bates et al1992, J Physiol). After a year training in molec-ular genetics at the University of Glasgow, I moved to the University of California at Davis, where I my postdoctoral work provided the first demonstration of somatic gene transfer into single mi-crovessels, and that VEGF increased extravasation of dye occurred by increasing hydraulic con-ductivity of capillaries (Bates and Curry Am J Phys 1996), through increasing calcium influx (Bates and Curry Am J Phys 1997). In 1996 I moved to a lectureship at Leicester University, where I continued to investigate VEGF signalling in vivo and showed that it works through a store independent mechanism (Pocock et al Am J Phys 2000), work that continued when I moved to Bristol in 1999 identifying its action through activation of TRPC channels (Cheng et al ATVB 2006). In 2002 I cloned the first of a novel family of VEGF splice variants (Bates et al Cancer Res 2002) that are antagonistic in many aspects for conventional VEGF isoforms (Woolard et al Can-cer Res 2004) but synergistic for others (Magnussen et al IOVS 2010). I have since described other members of this family of splice variants, identified a role for them in diabetes (e.g. Perrin et al Diabetol 2005), eye disease (e.g. Hua, IOVS 2010), renal disease (Amin et al Cancer Cell 2011), pre-eclampsia (MacMillan et al Clin Sci 2006, Bills et al Clin Sci 2009), and cancer (e.g. Varey et al BJ Cancer 2008), the mechanism of their control (Nowak et al J Cell Sci 2008) and action (Ka-wamua et al Cancer Res 2008), and effects on angiogenesis (Qiu et al FASEB J 2008) and permea-bility in health (Glass et al J Physiol 2006) and disease (Bills et al BJOG 2010). I have identified novel therapeutic candidates for anti-angiogenics through this mechanism (Woolard et al Chem Sci 2010, Nowak et al JBC 2010). I identified a novel mechanism for metastasis in skin cancer (Shields et al Oncogene 2007), through cytokines mediated recognition of lymphatics (Lanati et al Cancer Res 2010). My group has been instrumental in the recent breakthroughs in the understand-ing of the regulation of glomerular filtration (Neal et al JASN 2004), survival (Foster et al 2003) and permeability (Salmon et al AmJPhys, 2006) by the podocyte, showing for the first time that there is a downstream restriction to flow after the slit diaphragm (Neal et al Am J Phys 2004), and that this can be modulated by autocrine growth factors (Qiu et al JASN 2010), and modulation of endothelial glycocalyx (Salmon et al JASN 2012). I have also identified mechanisms through which shear stress can induce physiological neovascularisation (Benest et al Cardiovasc Res 2008), and generation of new arterioles (arteriolargenesis, Stone et al ATVB 2010). These findings have been published in over 110 papers over the last twenty years, most of which have come since 2004, in international journals such as Cancer Cell, Nature Cancer Reviews, JBC, J Cell Sci, ATVB, Cancer Research, FASEB J, J Am Soc Nephrol, Am J Physiol and J Physiol. I have directly super-vised 21 successful PhD candidates since my first in 2003, with a 100% succes rate, 19 of which are still in science or medicine and 27 postdocs, 9 of which are now in faculty positons, 2 as chairs. My students have found positions in internationally outstanding institutions such as the University of California (Davis, San Francisco and Santa Barbara), Sloan Kettering Memorial Centre, Weill Cornell, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in New York, King’s College London, EPFL Lau-sanne, Heidelberg, and some are in faculty postions already (Cambridge and Bristol).

Dr Lijun Zhang

Dr Lijun Zhang obtained his PhD degree from the University of Pretoria in 2016 and his MEng and BEng degrees from the Wuhan University in 2012 and 2010, respectively. He is a SANAS accredited technical signatory for the measurement and verification of energy savings and an registered professional engineer with ECSA. His research interests include energy modeling, optimization and control system design for industrial processes, heavy haul trains, electric vehicles, building energy systems, micro-grids etc. He is currently a senior lecturer at the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering at the University of Pretoria where he is also a Junior Chair on Energy Efficiency funded by Exxaro.

Dr Norah Clarke

Chief Director, University Academic Planning & Management Support University Education Branch, DHET

Dr Norah Clarke is project manager responsible for establishing the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) national platform, aimed at addressing issues of graduate unemployment and developing entrepreneurial universities.

Norah completed a baccalaureus degree in Education and an honours degree in Educational Psychology at the University of Pretoria. She attained a master’s degree in Tertiary and Adult Education (cum laude) from the Rand Afrikaans University and a doctorate in Psychology of Education from the University of Johannesburg (UJ). In 2010, she joined UJ’s Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment for a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Engineering Education.

Norah’s career involved educating learners and students from preschool to PhD level, including the academic supervision of master’s and doctoral students. She put her career on hold to become a full-time mother, while completing her doctoral studies. She discovered her interest in entrepreneurship then, firstly by envisioning and co-founding a successful private primary school in Johannesburg. She later established a learning enrichment start-up and, more recently, a women economic empowerment initiative.

She then joined the UJ Technology Transfer Office and was seconded to Resolution Circle (UJ’s technology commercialisation company) of which she was a founding member alongside her husband and CEO, Prof Willem Clarke. As Group Senior Manager: Training and Collaboration she was responsible for establishing and growing four departments and the technology incubator.


Dr Nhlanhla Msomi

CEO; MSQ Health Group & President; AfricaBio

After graduating with a PhD in Biotechnology (molecular genetics), he later obtained a Diploma in Finance and completed an International Executive Development Program (Wits). Nhlanhla’s career has included research scientist, academic, corporate advisor, innovation management and entrepreneur.  He left research and teaching to venture into the business world, after a decade.  He has intermittently gone back to the public service, first as a CEO of the East Coast Biotechnology Regional Innovation Centre and then interim CEO of the Technology Innovation Centre (both at inception). These were public venture capital funds focused on innovation. He also served, among others, on the boards of the CSIR, TIA, National Advisory Council on Innovation, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology as well as the inaugural Investment Committee of the Southern African IP Fund. He is a co-author of three seminal works: Ethical and Legal Guidelines for Biotechnology Research in South Africa (2006); base document of the National Bioeconomy Strategy (2013) and Report of the National Consensus Panel on Biosecurity and Biosafety (2015).

After leaving academia he co-founded a biotechnology investment holdings company, with interests in several start-ups and a primary holding in Biopath Laboratories (molecular pathology) and SA Bioproducts (industrial fermentation). He was previosly a partner in a corporate finance / advisory firm (now Quartile Capital) responsible for operationalisation of several public-private partnership funds and managing the proprietary investments division.  As part of the latter he managed the acquisition and growth of Cityworks, a software development firm (ERP).  He is currently CEO Of MSQ Health Group, a company he co-founded in 2010 with several subsiadiaries such as Akacia Medical, Clinisut, Akacia Surgical. He also serves on the Investment Committee of Quantum Global Health Fund for Africa.


Dr Mpilo Pearl Sithole

Dr Mpilo Pearl Sithole is a resident Public Service Commissioner in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal.  She completed her PhD in Anthropology at University of Cambridge, in England in 2001. As part of her career she has worked as a development practitioner, a researcher and an academic. For several years she taught at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Anthropology and in Community Development Programmes.

  • Her research interests, and areas of expertise, are on:
    -Gender and Development,
    -Analysis of Social Inequality, as well as,
    -Indigenous Knowledge Systems.

She has undertaken research on theory and practice of social development, including issues of Monitoring and Evaluation of social development and social cohesion. Her writings include a book titled Unequal Peers: The Politics of Discourse Management in the Social Sciences (2009), and a number of journal articles on governance and development – including traditional leadership.

A seasoned thinker in both theory and applied social science, Dr Sithole has been part of commissions, councils and boards that enrich institutional practice. She is a winner of the 2011 Women in Science Award from the National Department of Science and Technology.

Dr Sithole now holds a position as a Public Service Commissioner in KwaZulu-Natal Province.

Professor Chindo Hicks

Professor of Genetics in the Department of Genetic at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-School of Medicine

Chindo Hicks, Ph.D. is Professor of Genetics in the Department of Genetic at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-School of Medicine (LSUHSC-SOM) in New Orleans, USA. Dr. Hicks serves as Director of the Bioinformatics and Genomics Program at LSUHSC, Director of Bioinformatics for the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge and Director of Bioinformatics for the NIH supported Prostate Cancer Transatlantic Consortium (CaPTC) involving the US, UK, West Africa and the Caribbean. Dr. Hicks earned a Ph.D. in Computational Genomics and Bioinformatics from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. He was a fellow in computational genomics at Guelph University in Canada and a fellow in Bioinformatics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Dr. Hicks is nationally and internationally known for his research. He served as a senior Research Fellow for the Science and Technology Agency in Tokyo, Japan working on the Japanese Animal Genome Project. He was the co-founder of the Institute of Bioinformatics at the University of Georgia; and a founding member of the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Bioinformatics Grid and the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Genome-wide Association Information Network. He holds a joint patent on development of new germlines of grains for the United States Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Hicks led the bioinformatics team that contributed to designation of the Alvin Siteman Comprehensive Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the UC-Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in Sacramento California. He serves on various National and International Scientific Panels and Editorial Boards. He is affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  

His current research focuses on four research streams:

(1): Mapping the genomic and epigenomic landscapes of cancer genomes and other common human diseases.

(2) Development and application of bioinformatics and computational genomics methods for the analyses and integration of multiplatform-multiscale (“omics”, genotype, sequence and phenotype) data in different ethnic populations.

(3): Biomarker discovery and modeling gene regulatory networks and biological pathways driving common human diseases.

4): Knowledge discovery and big data analytics with application to precision medicine, drug discovery and drug repositioning. 


Mr Sisa Njikelana

Senior Policy Advisor and Industry Specialist  for the South African Industrial Energy Efficiency Project  


  • Entrepreneur
  • 2017: Senior Policy Advisor and Industry Specialist for the South African Industrial Energy Efficiency Project – Phase II in the National Cleaner Production Centre, Department of Trade and Industry


  • 1993: Diploma in Applied Social Studies at Ruskin College, Oxford University
  • 2006: Certificate in Leadership Communication, Rhodes University
  • 2015-2018: Research fellow - Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development at the University of Johannesburg
  • 2004 – 2014: Member of Parliament
  • 2011 – 2014: Chairperson of the Energy Committee, SA Parliament
  • 2009 – 2010: Member of Pan African Parliament


  • 1998 to 2004: Director of Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Committee (Eastern Cape Provincial Government); Board of Directors in XHASA ATC and Chairperson of the Audit Committee (Gauteng Provincial Government); COPE Affordable Housing; NEHAWU Investment Company
  • 1999-2004: Trustee of Tshedza Trust
  • 2015-2016: Chairperson of SA Independent Power Producers Association
    • 2008: Chairperson - Ingwenya Group;
    • 2015: Chairperson - Mitochondria Energy Company;
    • 2015: SinakoYoli Intenational (Executive Director); SinakoYoli Consulting  (Executive Director); Vega Knowledge Systems (Director); iKapa Energy (Director); Africa Litup (Director)


Professor Victor Ibeanusi

Dean, School of the Environment, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, US

 Professor Victor Ibeanusi, Ph.D. Dean School of the Environment, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University is advancing the EnergyWaterFoodNexus as a new science enterprise for addressing the global challenges on access to safe drinking water, energy, and food security.

Dr. Ibeanusi has a heartfelt vision to making the possibility of access to safe drinking water, energy, and food security becomes a global reality. Professor Ibeanusi’ s commitment to water quality spans over 25 years and has continued with a renewed vision rooted in rural communities. Prof Ibeanusi believes that restoring watersheds, groundwater, and sources of drinking water are the biggest challenges facing the global community. Through his research Professor Ibeanusi has developed a US patented bioremediation system for treating toxic metals, acid mine drainage, and volatile organic compounds in wastewater.

Professor Ibeanusi is a recipient of both the Fulbright Fellow (Germany) and the Senior Fulbright Fellow designed to support curricular  and  institutional  planning  at  academic  institutions  in  140 countries, and an AT&T Foundation Industrial Ecology Fellow. Through his work, the city of Atlanta honored Professor Ibeanusi as one of the pioneers in Water & Environmental Sciences for his significant contributions to the water and wastewater industries and environmental sciences. The award recognized pioneers from yesterday whose inventions established the foundation for processes currently used in the management or recreational use of water and the environment; outstanding men and women who are making creative contributions in the field today and young people who are embarked on a path of creating a better environment for the future.

Prof Ibeanusi holds Doctorate and Master’s degrees from Atlanta University with a focused research in Environmental Microbiology, and Molecular Biology, respectively. In addition Prof Ibeanusi has Fellowship training at US Governmental National Laboratories at Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Lab, Space and Naval Warfare Systems, San Diego CA, US Environmental Protection Agency’s National Exposure Research Lab, Athens GA and Research Triangle Park, NC.


Mr Alexander Barag

Sales Manager, Customer Support, and Application Development TissueGnostics USA

Determining the in-situ immune status of diseased organs or quantify coexpression of molecules on the single-cell level has mostly been subject to visual estimation, or – at best – to manual counting for decades. Hence, experts usually had the choice of the “least of evils” between guessing and endless (manual) counting. In tumor immunology, infiltrating inflammatory cells need to be phenotypically characterized on a quantitative basis. To better understand the function of inflammatory cells in tumor development, type and number of inflammatory cells and their proximity to glandular/tumor structures have to be analyzed in-situ and correlated with disease state. Using TissueFAXS™ Cytometry the time-consuming and error-prone human evaluation of stained histological sections can be approached with an observer-independent and reproducible technology platform, offering a high degree of automation, paired with user interaction at relevant points of the analytical workflow. This platform can be applied as a means of tissue cytometry for both immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry and thus constitutes the microscopic equivalent to flow cytometry (FACS).

The TissueFAXS Cytometry platform can also be used to investigate regulatory or cell signaling networks that exist in each cell and control (or fail to control) cellular growth and death, genetic repair and wound healing, differentiation, organization and specific cellular function and are thus of vital importance to keep cells in homeostasis and thereby the organism healthy. The fact that cellular control mechanisms occur as non-linear interdependent molecular networks, rather than as linear pathways furnishes cells with a high degree of error resistance and functional stability. The degree of complexity, which is inherent to evolutionary derived interlinked signal transduction cascades, however, exacerbates both human comprehension and therapeutic intervention. It is not possible to fully understand the function of a specific signaling molecule without looking upstream and downstream in the pathway – and at least consider also lateral pathway segments of the same or even an interlinked network. This complexity causes human visual investigation to fail – not only because of the multiple markers that need to be observed in conjunction, but also because of the fact that single cell-specific analyses have to be done, and because of the need to quantify molecular expression levels. In many cases a simple “yes/no” answer (marker is/is not present on a given cell) is not enough! Rather increases or decreases in molecular expression levels need to be determined in response to eg. different treatment methods. Moreover, spatial changes, i.e. expression in different cellular compartments and/or intracellular translocation events have to be determined in order to properly understand the signal transduction and propagation processes.

Likewise FACS, TissueFAXS™ can quantify any type of molecular marker in any type of cell – but in tissue context or in adherent cell culture monolayers without the need to solubilise the cells (i.e. TissueFAXS permits analyses in-situ)! The TissueFAXS™ Cytometry platform provides a means of addressing cell signalling processes on the single cell level and in a cytometric manner! This platform can be used in research as well as clinical multi-center studies to determine the immune status in-situ (in response to drugs, virus or parasite infections, transplantation, etc), measure proliferation, apoptosis, cytokine expression, and others. It can do end-point assays as well as live-cell imaging and time-kinetic experiments. But TissueFAXS™ Cytometry also promotes tissue cytometry to a new level of quality, where complex cellular interactions can be addressed on the single-cell level but still in histological context.


  1. Derricott H et al. Characterizing Villitis of Unknown Etiology and Inflammation in Stillbirth. Am J Pathol 2016 Apr; 186 (4): 952-61.
  2. Lai CH et al. Toll-Like Receptor 4 is Essential in the Development of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. PLoS ONE. 2016 Jan; 11(1): e0146565. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0146565
  3. Kopp T, et al. Clinical improvement in psoriasis with specific targeting of interleukin-23. Nature. 2015 Mar 9. doi: 10.1038/nature14175
  4. Grabner B et al. Disruption of STAT3 signaling promotes KRAS-induced lung tumorigenesis. Nature Communications. 2015 Mar; doi:10.1038/ncomms7285

Ms Penny Buthelezi

Enterprise Ireland is the government agency responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets and part of our strategy is focused on developing credible networks within the Sub-Saharan African market and promoting Ireland as a preferred supply source.


Prof Thiago Romanelli

Head of International Relations, University of Sao Paulo's Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture, Brazil

Agronomist by the University of Sao Paulo (2000), M.Sc. in Agricultural Machinery by the University of Sao Paulo (2003) and Ph.D. in Forest Resources by the University of Sao Paulo (2007), with a period as a Research Associate of the Center for Environmental Policy of the University of Florida (2005-2006). Currently is Associate Professor of the Department of Biosystems Engineering, ESALQ/USP and Coordinator of the undergraduate course of Environmental Management, former President of International Affairs, former Vice-Head of Informatics. Research themes: Environmental management, Material and energy flows in production systems, Sustainability, Life Cycle Assessment.


Dr Happy Sithole

Director, Centre for High Performance Computing

Dr. Happy Sithole is the Director for the Center for High Performance Computing. The Center amongst its responsibilities, host super-computing facilities for the country, and also provides platform for large scientific data repositories. Dr. Sithole with a PhD in Materials Science focused on mineral extraction schemes using large scale simulations. He has applied the simulation techniques in diamond mining industry, where he worked as Process Optimisation specialist. He has also worked in nuclear power plant design, as Senior Process Engineer. His work in High Performance Computing includes strategic development of HPC and also technical level design of the HPC systems. He is passionate on applications performance on HPC systems, and considers HPC systems development to be driven by the applications requirements. He has pioneered the development of skills in South Africa and the continent. Dr. Sithole supports megascience projects such as the SKA and LHC projects. He sits in Steering Committees for HPC in different countries and also a Board Member of the National Library of South Africa, where he is the Chair of the ICT Committee. Dr. Sithole is also a member of the Steering Committee of ISC and SC. He has presented invited and plenary talks in many meetings and countries.

Ms Ludwe Macingwane

Operations Manager, IDZ, East London

Ludwe Macingwane moved to East London from Johannesburg in 2011, joining the management team that conceptualized the East London Industrial Development Zone Science and Technology Park. Her passion for innovation and drive to develop entrepreneurs fit well with her move. She has since taken over the role of running the Operations of the Science and Technology Park, giving strategic direction and oversight on the projects and research activities both current and future within the park. She has also been central, through her commendable project management skills, in locating incubators, facilitating mentorship and funding for entrepreneurs as well as setting up a SANAS accredited laboratory facility within the park. Within the park are projects such as the Design Centre as well as a Renewable Centre.

Macingwane obtained her junior and post graduate qualifications from the University of Johannesburg. She also holds a master’s degree in Leadership of Innovation and change from the University of St John’s in the UK. Passionate about innovation, driven by entrepreneurship development joining the East London Industrial Development Zone in 2011 to help conceptualize the Science and Technology Park was a natural fit. She has private sector experience in FMCG, ABI (The soft drink division of SAB) as well as within the ICT spaces (Business Connexion). In 2016 is she was a Regional Business Woman award finalist.


Prof Monde Ntwasa

Professor of Biotechnology, UNISA

Monde Ntwasa, Professor of Biochemistry, University of South Africa. Completed the BSc(Hons) at the University of Cape Town and the Master of Philosophy and PhD at Cambridge University, United Kingdom under the supervision of Professor Nicholas Gay. He then returned to the University of Cape Town Medical School as a research Fellow studying lipid modification of proteins. In 1999, he accepted a position as a lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) where he lectured in Biochemistry until 2016. During this time at Wits University, his research focused on cancer and innate immunity. Last year Monde accepted a position at the University of South Africa as Professor of Biochemistry. His research now focuses on anti-cancer and anti-microbial drug discovery and development.


Prof Kebogile Mokwena

HOD: Public Health, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University

Prof Mokwena’s primary training is in physiotherapy, and she obtained an MSc in Physiotherapy from Medunsa. She did her Doctorate in Public Health Education from the University of South Carolina, USA. She then returned to South Africa to establish the Department of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, within the National School of Public Health, which she still heads.

Over the years she has played a crucial role in curriculum development in Public Health and has served the University in various portfolios. She has supervised 65 master and 5 doctoral students, and has presented extensively in national and international conferences. She has published journal articles, as well as conference proceedings, book chapters and technical reports. Her current research focus areas within Public Health and Health Promotion include metabolic syndrome, mental health and substance abuse, with a specific focus on nyaope. She is a grant holder of 2 projects funded by the South African Research Council. 


Ms Rizwana Mia

Program Manager; Grants Innovation & Product Development (GIPD), SAMRC

Rizwana Mia joined the SAMRC in February 2015 and currently serves as a Program Manager within the GIPD team the non-communicable diseases project portfolio and the South African Precision Medicine program for the DST and SAMRC. Prior to her appointment she served at the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) for 8 and half years. Rizwana has a strong Genetics and product development background. She began her career when she was recruited by the TIA to establish a local start-up company called the Institute of Diagnostics Research.

Rizwana moved onto the portfolio management component of the TIA where she further gained a Postgraduate in Business Administration and served as a Senior Investment Specialist focusing on building the TIA Health Innovation portfolio. Rizwana has gained significant experience in the South African National System of Innovation. She served as interim project manager on the Western Cape Regional Innovation Forum to devise a roadmap for a regional innovation framework.

Furthermore, she has played a key role and has contributed significantly to key biotechnology strategies. Currently, she heads the Precision Medicine program for the DST and SAMRC and achieved national backing from the Department of Science and Technology by gaining ministerial approval and incorporation of a precision medicine think tank to devise a research agenda for precision medicine. Her efforts are further seen in the recent partnership engagement between the Beijing


Dr Gloria Braxton

Former Chief of Party, United Negro College Fund Special Programs, USA

Gloria J. Braxton is an experienced higher education professional with demonstrated competencies in academic teaching, research, administrative leadership, and community outreach.    Having begun her teaching career in 1974 as an Assistant Professor of Political Science, she taught courses in American Government, Urban Politics, African American Politics, and African Government and Politics for 17 years.  In 1982 she became Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography where primary responsibility included curriculum development and program expansion for a well-established faculty and student body.

An educator with 30 years of higher education experience, she has also served as the Director of International Programs for the Southern University System in Louisiana (1991-1999).   She assumed overall responsibility for the development, administration and management of international education programs and institutional business development for international development assistance projects for the four-campus System.

From 1999-2006, she was employed by a multi-faceted USAID-funded performance-based capacity-building higher education project in South Africa.  As a member of the Technical Advisory Panel for the African Capacity Building Foundation, she chaired the Network on Professionalization of the Voices of The Private Sector and Civil Society, a global network of professionals who advised on capacity building in civil society and private sector participation in governance and development management (2005-2011).

Research and publications have focused primarily on women in national development processes, especially in the development of gender budgeting research priorities, women in politics, and women in agriculture. 

This includes serving as the lead researcher for the publication, Gender Budgeting As a Tool for Poverty Reduction, an operations research project commissioned by the African Capacity Building Foundation that presented case studies on South Africa, Uganda, and Rwanda.    She has served in leadership positions for several domestic and international professional organizations that focus on identifying challenges and providing solutions to national development problems.



Dr Thembakazi Mali

Senior Manager, Clean Energy Solutions, SANEDI

Thembakazi Mali holds a Ph. D in Chemistry and a Graduate Diploma in Engineering in Environmental Engineering from the University of the Witwatersrand. Her career spans close to two decades in the energy and petrochemical fields. Presently, she is the General Manager: Renewables at the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), which is a state-funded energy research, development and deployment organisation. Her responsibilities within the thematic area are that of strategic planning to ensure that the strategic objectives of government that relate to energy security of supply are realised, in the nature of research work undertaken and technology diffusion that is appropriate for the country’s needs and development. She also chairs the Energy Storage Initiative Steering Committee which is looking into the value of energy storage in the South African context.

Prof Innocent Davidson

Professor of Electrical Engineering, DUT 

Inno Davidson is a Full Professor of Electrical Engineering, Durban University of Technology; Fellow, Institute of Engineering and Technology, UK; Fellow, South African Institute of Electrical Engineers; Chartered Engineer, UK; registered Professional Engineer, Engineering Council of South Africa. He received the BSc (Eng.) with Honours, MSc (Eng.) degrees in Electrical Engineering, University of Ilorin; PhD in Electrical Engineering, University of Cape Town; Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management, University of KwaZulu-Natal; Associate Certificate in Sustainable Energy Management, British Columbia Institute of Technology in Canada. He has 30 years of experience in engineering and technology, research and implementation, industry practice, university teaching and academic leadership, consulting and application. His research focus is in: "Grid Integration of Renewable Energy using HVDC and Smart Technologies and Innovation for Smart Cities". Smart City is the sustainable modernisation of a community and its infrastructure using technology, such as: green energy-efficient buildings, smart grids and smart transportation systems. The goal of building a smart city is to advance commerce; improve on the quality of life by using technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs without compromising the needs of future generations. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE.

Prof Les Mampuru

Director of the School of Molecular and Life Sciences, University of Limpompo

Prof Mampuru attained a BSc (Biochemistry & Microbiology) and BSc Honours (Biochemistry) degrees in 1990 and 1991, respectively, at the then University of the North, UNIN (currently University of Limpopo), a Master’s degree in Biochemistry in 1995 from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA on a Fulbright Scholarship. He further achieved a Doctoral degree in Biochemistry in 2000 at UNIN, after undertaking his entire doctoral research work at the Division of Haematology/Oncology, Lucille Parker Memorial Cancer Institute, Markey Cancer Centre, Chandler Medical Centre, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky (USA), under the supervision of Prof Vincent Salvatore Gallicchio - a Professor of Clinical Sciences/Haematology and Internal Medicine at the University of Kentucky.

His doctoral thesis entitled “Murine AIDS and Apoptosis: Analysis of Molecular Events Associated with LP-BM5 MuLV Retrovirus Infection of Murine Bone Marrow-Derived Stromal Cells” was designed to delineate the intricate molecular events and gene activities associated with LP-BM5 MuLV retrovirus infection of murine bone marrow-derived stromal cells.

Prof Mampuru presently takes keen interest in natural products research towards treatment of cancer and other associated conditions such as inflammation and oxidative stress. The critical research focus of his research impetus is on the isolation, purification and chemical structure elucidation of bioactive principles that possess anticancer, anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. His laboratory uses biochemical, molecular biology and proteomics approaches to understand the intricate molecular networks in cancer aetiology. The ultimate aim is to identify the bio-active compounds that can serve as drug templates and advise on the potential for development of cheap alternative medicinal formulations for effective prevention, treatment and management of the most recalcitrant malignant phenotypes. Prof Mampuru currently manages research funds in excess of R5 000 000.00, attained from the South African Medical Research Council-Research Capacity Development Initiative (SAMRC-RCDI). He has promoted over 30 BSc (Honours), 15 MSc, 2 PhD candidates and 2 post-doctoral research fellows and has published widely in peer-reviewed ISI-rated scientific journals. Prof Mampuru has also delivered more than 90 scientific presentations at national and international meetings.

Administratively, Professor Mampuru has been an HoD of the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University of Limpopo (UL) and currently serves as the Director of the School of Molecular and Life Sciences (UL), steering the strategic academic direction of the School and managing a total staff complement of over 80 academic and support personnel.


Dr Jasper Rees

ARC Group Executive, Research and Innovation Systems

Dr Rees obtained his Bachelors and Doctoral Degrees at Oxford University, and then spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow in San Diego and Boston in the USA. After a further five years as a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Oxford, he moved to UWC as the Professor of Biochemistry in 1995. During the following 15 years he played an important role in building one of the largest Biotechnology Departments in South Africa, and established major programs in apoptosis and drug discovery research, and plant biotechnology at UWC. He was the program leader for a Royal Society/National Research Foundation linkage program with Durham, Oxford and Cambridge and UWC, from 1997 – 2007, in structural biology and plant biotechnology.

More recently his work in biomedical research has lead to the establishment of the DST/MinTek Nanotechnology Innovation Centre: Biolabels Unit, which is working on developing diagnostic and therapeutic strategies focused on cancer and diabetes. In parallel with this he also led the Fruit Tree Genetics Group, which has undertaken significant work in quantitative genetics and genomics of apple; leading to the generation of many high resolution genetic maps, and recently the exploration of transcriptome analysis of a range of developmental and pathogenic conditions in apples.

During the period 2008-2010 he was increasingly focused on driving the work with the Illumina Genome Analyser, establishing the first Next Generation Sequencing facility in Africa, and introducing this technology to a range of research groups within the country. 

In 2010 Dr Rees moved to the ARC as the Head of the Biotechnology Platform, where he was responsible for the establishment of advanced facilities for genomics and bioinformatics, and their application in many programs within the ARC, with 5 new research teams and more than 30 new postgraduate students.

In 2014 he was appointed as the Group Executive for Research and Innovation Systems at the ARC, where he is responsible for a set of cross-cutting research areas including biotechnology, engineering, natural resource management and informatics.

Dr Rees has supervised some 35 MSc and PhD students and 30 postdoctoral fellows over the past 20 years, and currently has a team of more than 10 postgraduate students. He is an Extraordinary Professor in Statistical Genomics at UNISA.

His research program involves plant genomics and molecular pathology on wheat, sorghum, maize, apples, sweetpotato and cassava.


Mr Barlow Manilal

CEO, Technology Innovation Agency

He holds a BSc Hons. Degree in Industrial Technology & Management and several other management qualifications including having completed a Masters Programme at the University of Pretoria. Mr Manilal is currently at proposal stage of a PhD Programme focussing on Programme Management. Mr Manilal has gained excellent knowledge of project management, project engineering and manufacturing in the automotive environment at Toyota SA and Mercedes Benz SA. Whilst at Mercedes Benz, he was part of the W203 programme planning team based at their East London Plant. During his tenure at Toyota, he was involved in numerous project engineering and change control initiatives. Prior to joining TIA, he spent 14 years at the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC), of which 7-years were as CEO and 3-years as the Chief Operations Officer. The AIDC is an implementation agency mandated to develop the automotive industry to increase its global competitiveness.

Under his leadership, the AIDC underwent significant transformation to becoming a formidable mechanism for project delivery. This included undertaking a significant merger process with its sister entity, the Supplier Park Development Company (SPDC). Today, the AIDC is a multi-award winning company, renowned for implementing numerous innovative concepts within the automotive sector.

Throughout his career Mr Manilal has served in several strategic roles. These include, among others:

  • National President of the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transportation of South Africa (CILTSA) from 2006 to 2015;
  • Member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Transport World Africa;
  • Representative on the Federation of Supply Chain Management Associations of South Africa; and
  • Member of the Automotive and Manufacturing Industry Advisory Council to the University of Johannesburg.

Mr Manilal and the AIDC have taken numerous awards, nationally and internationally, amongst them;

  • The National Business Award for the Top Performing Parastatal, on three occasions;
  • Elected as a nominee for the country‟s „Lifetime Achievement Award‟ at the National Business Awards in July 2012;
  • Winner of the Black Business Quarterly (BBQ) „Public Sector Visionary Award‟ in October 2013;
  • Winners of the Oliver Empowerment Awards in the Category of „Most Transformed Public Sector Award 2014‟; and
  • And finalist in the Oliver Empowerment Awards: „Public Sector Leader Award 2014‟,

In striving to achieve his personal philosophy and motto to “Make excellence an attitude”, he encourages a learning culture whilst entrenching a winning team spirit comprising of, People - Process – Products - Purpose - Pride – Passion. He continues to participate in numerous strategic thought leaderships platforms which focus on manufacturing, technology and leadership. An excellent addition to the National System of Innovation, he assumed his role as CEO of the Technology Innovation Agency in April 2015.

Prof Ramesh Kanwar

University of Hawaii, USA


Ph.D. Water Resources and Agricultural Engineering, Iowa State Univ., Ames, Iowa, USA.

M.S. Irrigation & Drainage Engineering, G.B. Pant University Agriculture & Tech, India.

B.S. Agricultural Engineering, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, India. 

Academic experience

2016- present: Professor and Special Director of International Programs, CTAHR, UHM, USA

2014-2015: Provost and Vice Rector for Academic Affairs, ADA University, Baku, Azerbaijan.

2011-2013: Vice Chancellor, Lovely Professional University, Punjab, India 

2001- 2011: Professor and Chair, Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering Dept, Iowa State Univ.

1999 -2002: Director, Iowa State Water Resources Research Institute, Iowa State University.

1997- 2001: Assistant Director, Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station, Iowa State University.

2009-2016: Distinguished Professor, Water Resources Engineering, Iowa State University, USA

1991- 2009: Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Iowa State University, USA

1986-1991: Associate Professor of Soil and Water Resource Engineering, Iowa State University

Consultancy experience in international agencies:

1992-2009: Consultant to the World Bank, NATO, EU, UNDP, UNEP, FAO, USAID 

Honors and Awards 

  • Pride of India Award (Bharat Gaurav Award), Indian Institute of Oriental Heritage, Feb 27, 2016.
  • Distinguished Service Award, ADA University, Baku, Azerbaijan, December 27, 2015.
  • Golden Jubilee Alumni Award, Punjab Agricultural University, India, December 19, 2015.
  • Dean’s Citation for Extraordinary Contributions, CALS, Iowa State University, Feb. 5, 2015.
  • Indian Icon of the Year Award for outstanding contributions to higher education, Aug. 21, 2013
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Punjab Agricultural University, India, 2012.
  • Punjab Ratan Award, All India Conference of Intellectuals, India, 2012.
  • International Agriculture Leadership Award, Agriculture India Today, India, 2012.
  • Fellow, Indian Society of Agricultural Engineers, India, 2012.
  • Sakai Science and Technology Award, Asian Assoc. of Agricultural Engineering, China, 2012. 

Service on National and International Boards/Committees/Panels/Boards:

  • External Assessor/Advisor, Putra University Malaysia (2014-2017)
  • President’s Advisory Board for India’ $40 M Project, Cornell University (2011-2016)
  • Task Force on Higher Education, Planning Commission of Government of India (2012-17)
  • President’s Science Advisory Board, Khon Kaen University, Thailand (2011-2015)
  • Panel member, USAID Grants for Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia, Georgia (2009-2013)
  • Administrative advisor of NCERA committees (NCERA 101, NCERA 217), 2007- present 

Grant Funds: Obtained $15.6 million in grants for 100 plus research/educational projects as a PI or Co-PI and more than $2 million in grants from global agencies (World Bank/USAID/FAO). 

Visiting Professors/Scholars: Served host professor for 60 Visiting Professors from 30+ countries.

Graduate Student Advising: 29 M.S. and 28 Ph.D. students have completed their degrees under my direct supervision; currently major professor for 2 Ph.D. students.

Refereed Journal Articles: (Total Number of Refereed Journal Articles: 191, Citation: 4,757; h-Index: 39 – Google Scholar). Following is a list of refereed journal papers in last three years

Dr Shashi Kumar

Group Leaders, International Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) New Delhi, India

Dr Shashi Kumar is a Group leader, Metabolic Engineering Group, International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi), which is an autonomous non-profit research Institute of U.N. Organization. He graduated from Department of Genetics, University of Delhi, 1998 and thereafter worked for 12 years in the USA in different capacities (Research associate @ University of Virginia; Research Specialist @ University of California Berkeley; Senior Scientist @ USDA and Yulex Inc.). He got several scientific awards and has been invited as a distinguished speaker for delivering seminar in many National and International institutes and conferences.

He has actively participated as a Principal Investigator along with Coordinator Dr. Shams Yazdani for establishing the “Centre for Advanced Bio-Energy Research” with the aid of Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. He has received funding from DBT, DST, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Aban Inc., Chennai Petroleum Chemical Limited (CPCL), and National Science Foundation (NSF, USA) etc. and having research collaboration with the Ohio State University, USA, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia USA, University of East Anglia (UEA), UK.

His current research areas: Developing sustainable algal biofuel via genome editing tools and synthetic biology approaches. Biosynthesis of terpenoid drugs via metabolic engineering of plants and biosynthesized antimalarial drug artemisinin via compartmentalized metabolic engineering approach and demonstrated effective malaria treatment by oral delivery of whole plant cells. This work has been highlighted by the worldwide news media like Cell Press, Science Magazine, The Economist-London, The Age Times etc., and several interview and news featured on the Voice of America (Radio) and Rajya Shaba TV etc. in past year.

Prof Raj Ramesar

Head of the Division of Human Genetics & Director of the MRC Human Genetics Research Unit, UCT

Raj Ramesar is Professor and Head of the Division of Human Genetics at the University of Cape Town and its Affiliated Hospitals in South Africa.  This facility has wide-ranging clinical responsibilities from the quaternary and tertiary care levels, to extensive rural outreach programmes, in addition to diagnostic and research capabilities.  

As the Director of the MRC Human Genetics Research Unit, the emphasis of his research has been on disease susceptibility in South African populations, progressing from the commonly recognised inherited diseases, to those that are more complex yet more common and relevant to a large burden of disease. As Director of the national Colorectal Cancer Research Consortium his focus has been on the genetics of familial colorectal cancers, and the most effective translation of laboratory findings to the field for optimum benefit of patients and their kin.  In this regard, Raj received the (Vice Chancellor’s) Alan Pifer Award for ‘outstanding research in cancer genetics which shows relevance to the advancement of South Africa’s disadvantaged populations’.  In 2016, he was invited to join UCT’s college of Fellows and he was awarded the International Human Genome Organisations (HUGO) Africa Award in Houston, USA.

Mr Guilherme Antunes Approbato

International Office Coordinator at SUPERA Park, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Guilherme works with FIPASE (the managing foundation for SUPERA Innovation and Technology Park) since 2015 and currently coordinates SUPERA International Office’s activities.

Guilherme has a Business Administration background, and started his career as an entrepreneur at 18. In 2015, he was selected as one of the students to receive the “Entrepreneurship Scholarship” by the University of São Paulo, which took him to work at INcubes in Toronto – a startup accelerator. During his stay in Canada, Guilherme assisted startups in different stages and engaged with the Hacking Health movement, which SUPERA Park was already partner with.

He coordinates the international relations of SUPERA Park, supporting incubated companies that are willing to go abroad, and also foreign companies that want to explore the Brazilian market.

SUPERA Park is a Technology and Innovation Park located in Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo. It is the result of a consortium between the University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo State Government and the City Hall. SUPERA supports entrepreneurship and innovation through the incubation program, which was already recognized as the best business incubator in Brazil for the intense use of technologies (by ANPROTEC), and also through many other initiatives to develop the region. SUPERA Park is focused in the Health, IT and Biotechnology sectors, but not limited to it. SUPERA’s Business Incubator and Business Center houses 62 companies at the moment.

Dr Syed Shams Yazdani

International Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) New Delhi, India

Dr Shams Yazdani is currently heading DBT-ICGEB Centre for Advanced Bioenergy Research and leading Microbial Engineering group at ICGEB where the major interest is to use genomic, metagenomic, synthetic and systems biology approaches to achieve high yield of biofuels and other chemicals from renewable resources. Dr. Yazdani graduated from Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh (India) in chemistry and obtained his Masters and Ph.D. degree in Biotechnoloy from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His early research in JNU led to the development of technology for production of recombinant Streptokinase, which was transferred to Shanta Biotech, Hyderabad for further scale-up and commercialization.

He was involved in malaria vaccine development program at ICGEB during 1999-2010 and developed technologies for production of three potential vaccine candidates for Vivax and Falciparum malaria and transferred these technologies to Bharat Biotech (I) Ltd, Hyderabad for their cGMP production. The ICGEB malaria vaccine has gone through pre-clinical toxicity studies and entered into Human clinical trial in August 2010. He further made breakthrough discovery during his research at Rice University, Houston, USA as a overseas fellow in 2007-2008 by finding a novel pathway in E. coli to produce bioethanol from glycerin, a waste from biodiesel industry.

He is an author of ~50 publications in high impact international journals and books and 10 patent applications. He leads several multilateral international collaborative projects, including Indo-UK, Indo-Australia and Indo-US. He is a member of editorial board of Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (JIMB), Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology and Indian Journal of Biotechnology, and reviewers of many renowned peer review journals. He servers in various committees of Government of India such as Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) and many academic institutions. He is representing India in AHTEG Committee of Synthetic Biology, an organ of UN Convention of Biodiversity.

Werner Janse van Rensburg

Dr Janse van Rensburg obtained his PhD in Chemistry at the University of the Free State in 2001, followed by a MSc in Molecular Modelling (Computational Chemistry) from Cardiff University, Wales, in 2002. Dr Janse van Rensburg was appointed as full time computational chemist at Sasol Technology R&D where he pursued research projects of an industrial nature. During the more than 13 years at Sasol he was responsible for the successful management of the Sasol industrial computational chemistry research strategy, resource acquisition (hardware and software), national and international university research collaboration and leading the Sasol computational chemistry group. In 2014 he took up the position of Research Manager at the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) responsible for HPC research application support to users, executing the research support strategy of the CHPC, supervising the in-house research application scientists and engineers and fulfilling the human capital development (HCD) initiatives of the CHPC. Dr Janse van Rensburg is the author/co-author of 17 publications, including 2 patents.