MUT’s Research, Innovation and Engagement Week hosts renowned speakers in the area of Precision Medicine

4 July 2017 

Press release statement: For immediate release  

Submitted by Bheki Hlophe, Media Relations & Publications Officer

Via email: hlophe@mut.ac.za

MUT’s Research, Innovation and Engagement Week hosts renowned speakers in the area of Precision Medicine

The capstone event for the Research, Innovation and Engagements week is on Wednesday the 12th of July 2017 at the ICC. There will be a panel Discussion on Precision Medicine which will be chaired by one South Africa’s greatest medical scientists, Professor Glenda Gray, the President and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council (SA-MRC). She will be backed by other world renowned Medical Scientists Professor Dave Bates from the University of Nottingham, UK and Professor Chindo Hicks from the Louisiana State University, New Orleans, USA.

Convenor of the Research, Innovation and Engagements week, Professor Zodwa Dlamini, said, “Precision medicine is very close to my heart as it is an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person. This approach allows doctors and researchers to predict more accurately which treatment and prevention strategies for a particular disease will work in which groups of people. It is in contrast to a “one-size-fits-all” approach, in which disease treatment and prevention strategies are developed for the average person, with less consideration for the differences between individuals”.

Professor Dlamini further said, “Although the term Precision Medicine is relatively new, the concept has been a part of healthcare for many years. For example, a person who needs a blood transfusion is not given blood from a randomly selected donor; instead, the donor’s blood type is matched to the recipient to reduce the risk of complications. While examples can be found in several areas of medicine, the role of Precision Medicine in day-to-day healthcare is relatively limited. Researchers hope that this approach will expand to many areas of health in coming years.”

It is for this reason that MUT has chosen a session that will also explore pharmacogenomics which is a part of precision medicine and is the study of how genes affect a person’s response to particular drugs. This relatively new field combines pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics (the study of genes and their functions) to develop effective, safe medications and doses that will be tailored to variations in a person’s genes.

The panel discussion on Precision Medicine takes into account individual genetic and other sources of variability in disease treatment and prevention. “In future we envision a comprehensive disease classification that combines information from biomedical-research, public health, and health-care-delivery communities towards advancing knowledge of disease pathogenesis and improving health”, said Professor Dlamini.

Notes for the editors

  1. Profile on Professor Dlamini
  2. About the MUT Research, Innovation and Engagements week (10-14 July)
  3. Profiles of Professors Glenda Gray (SA-MRC), Chindo Hicks (Louisiana State University: USA), David Bates (University of Nottingham-UK)

Professor Zodwa Dlamini

DVC:  Research, Innovation and Engagements, MUT

Professor Zodwa Dlamini is the current Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagements (RIE). She is the member of the Council for Scientific Advisers (CSA) of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), an international scientific body composed of eminent scientists or scientists of the highest profile and international standing, nominated by member state (Ministry of Science & Technology), in the substantive fields of ICGEB (2017 July). She grew up in the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, Mahlabatini, Enhlungwane District. Professor Dlamini obtained her BSc (Biochemistry and Microbiology) and BSc.Hons (Biochemistry) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), MSc from the University of Natal (Biotechnology) and PhD at the University of Natal (Molecular Medicine). She joined the University of Western Cape as a postdoctoral fellow (Molecular Oncology). She was then appointed as a lecturer at University of Witwatersrand (Genetics) and was promoted to a Senior Lecturer (Molecular Pathology).

She then joined the University of Limpopo (UL) as an Associate Professor in Biochemistry and interviewed successfully at University of South Africa (UNISA) in the role of Deputy Executive Dean and Full Professor in Molecular Genetics.

In June 2015, she was appointed by Mangosuthu University of Technology as the Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagements. Her research, is a highly specialized area of molecular oncology and has been recognized internationally, evidenced by: invitations to review articles in international journals of high standing; invitations to Chair and give keynote lectures at international conferences; an appointment as an Honorary Senior Lecturer; and then a Research Fellow by the University of Bristol in the UK. She was awarded the AACR-NCI for the International Investigator Opportunity Grant in 2007. Professor Dlamini was also awarded a Royal Society Fellowship to work on splicing regulation at the University of Bristol, 2008.

She was appointed by the Minister of Health as the Vice Chairperson of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Board for two terms (2010-2016). She is the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) member of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Standing Committee (2015-) and was invited to be on the ASSAf Consensus Panel to peer review 23 journals in Mathematics and Science (2016-). She has recently been appointed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to serve on the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Research Outputs Evaluation Panel (2017-).

As a recognised international expert, Professor Dlamini represents the National Department of Health in the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Scientific Advisory Board on Preclinical Drug Development Platform (2013-). She also serves on the DST/SAMRC National Genomics and Precision Medicine Think Tank (2016). She has successfully balanced science leadership and research focus with the training of postgraduates and maintained her international scientific reputation whilst spearheading the implementation of government related research policies.

ABOUT THE 2nd MUT RESEARCH, INNOVATION & ENGAGEMENTS (RIE) WEEK 2017 

The Office of the DVC: Research, Innovation & Engagements is proud to host yet another annual Research, Innovation and Engagements (RIE) Week. The 2017 MUT RIE is poised to be bigger and better under the aptly crafted theme: “Engaging Globally for Local Impact”. The focus and objective of the 2017 RIE Week is premised on advancing the knowledge economy in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and beyond. This portfolio will also outline its progress in 2 years under the leadership of Professor Dlamini and where to from now.

During RIE Week from 10 – 14 July, MUT will be hosting academic institutions from all over the world as part of strengthening its global reach as a key player in global research collaboration. The international partners will be interacting and engaging with MUT staff and students as well as other key institutional stakeholders. The envisaged highlight of the MUT RIE Week will be the launch of five milestone documents of the university. These documents include the Inaugural MUT Research and Innovation Annual Report; the first MUT Research and Innovation Framework; the MUT Research and Innovation Strategic Plan; the first MUT Engagement Plan; and the first MUT Internationalisation Strategy.

The MUT’s Internationalisation Strategy and the Engagement Plan are already being implemented through the launch of the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and Ireland Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) “twinning initiative”. The Ministry of Science and Technology will be launching the MUT CSIR-funded Electronics Testing Unit and the TIA-funded Measurement & Verification Centre. These two centres are hosted at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) building on Ridge Road (Durban). The MUT Internationalisation Strategy as well as the Engagement Plan will be implemented through having both global and local communities interacting to advance research, innovation and the community engagement agenda. The RIE Week provides the greatest platform for interaction between academia, business, industry, government and communities to share knowledge on sessions advancing the government priorities as well as showcasing research and development at MUT and building up to the MUT Multidisciplinary Research Institute (M-MRI).

MUT will also launch its Flagship project on Climate Change, which supports environmental sustainability, and pledges MUT’s corporate citizenship. This session will focus on renewable energy, which will include both solar and bio energy, as well as a panel discussion by some members from the BRICS countries. MUT RIE Week will also host the KZN Technoparks. Key panellists from the locally and abroad will lead discussions on “research and development, entrepreneurship and SMMEs development and support”.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST), CSIR Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) will lead a session on Big Data Analytics.  The Director of the Centre for Genomics and Bioinformatics from the University of Louisiana, in New Orleans, USA and European Union expert through DIT, will introduce international flavour to the topic of high performance computing. This session will cut across the three MUT faculties, as there will be speakers from Engineering Sciences, Economics and Natural Sciences and Management Sciences.

On the second evening of RIE Week will be the Founders’ Dinner. This dinner marks the zenith of the MUT research agenda which takes into cognisance how MUT was founded by a sole African, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who saw that there was a need for technical  education for Africans in the then Natal Province. Prince Buthelezi approached the late Sir Harry Oppenheimer, a philanthropist and business magnate, resulting in the establishment of MUT in 1979. Emboldened by this philanthropic gesture, the RIE week will:

  • Honour men, women groups and organisations who worked to build MUT into a new generation University, from top alumni who continuously find ways to partner with MUT, to leaders that have been at the helm of MUT and walked with MUT to build it into a national university;
  • Celebrate the on-going road map of developing MUT into a pre-eminent University of Technology that supports the National Systems of Innovation (NSI) and the Development Plan. This is a move towards positioning MUT for a more critical role in changing lives and fulfilling dreams of a student body from a predominantly working class; and
  • Deliver on MUT’s mission as an enabling institution that is committed to nation-building.

The session on Health and Precision Medicine will be chaired by one of the eminent researchers in Medical Science, the President and CEO of SAMRC, Professor Glenda Gray.