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Staff

Dr Vinayak Singh
 
Senior Research Officer /
TB and AMR Biology
 

 


  

Vinayak (MSc-Biotechnology, PhD-Biochemistry) is an exceptionally skilled experimental biologist with >15 years of extensive drug discovery research experience. 

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He has outstanding knowledge of the field of Microbiology, and of the related fields of Biochemistry as well as Microbial Genetics, Genomics and Physiology, especially as they apply to tuberculosis. Vinayak’s exceptional skills as a microbiologist with high-level expertise in antimicrobial drug discovery and development began from his experience at the CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow, India, where he completed a PhD degree in Biochemistry. Next, he joined the University of Cape Town (UCT) where he completed a very successful postdoctoral fellowship (2011-2016) in the lab of Prof. Valerie Mizrahi. He joined UCT’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D) in Jan 2017. He served as the lead researcher on studies that have been published in top international journals. Importantly, he has identified and validated >15 novel tuberculosis drug targets which have attracted significant interest in the global tuberculosis research community. His work is defined by the characteristics of scientific excellence and rigour as evidenced by his publications and awards. Being an artist of Molecular networks, Genomics and Metabolomics, his main interest is to deconvolute mechanism of action of potential compounds to fulfil a broad and acute interest in the discovery of new innovative drugs.

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Dr Lauren Arendse
 
FLAIR Research Fellow /

Target-based malaria drug discovery

 

Lauren completed her PhD in medical biochemistry under the supervision of Prof. Jonathan Blackburn at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2014. During her PhD she spent a year as a visiting Commonwealth PhD Scholar in Prof. Tom Blundell’s biocomputing group at the University of Cambridge in the UK, where she gained valuable experience in protein modelling. Following her PhD, she completed four years of postdoctoral research under the guidance of Prof. Kelly Chibale and Prof. Edward Sturrock at UCT. During her doctoral and postdoctoral studies, she worked on a variety of enzyme systems including human cytochrome P450 enzymes, human zinc metallopeptidases and protein and lipid kinases, gaining expertise in recombinant protein expression, enzymology, assay development and structure-based drug design. 

In April 2019 Lauren joined the UCT Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D) as a Research Officer to establish the enzymology and structural biology components of a Plasmodium kinase platform for target-based malaria drug discovery. In May 2020 she was awarded a Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR) Fellowship to expand her work on Plasmodium kinases.  The FLAIR Fellowship Programme is a partnership between the African Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society funded by the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.  Lauren is an active member of the KC Academic Group, playing a role in student mentorship and supervision

 

Dr Kathryn J Wicht

Research Officer  

          

 

 

 

 

 

Kathryn received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cape Town in 2015, where her research focused on high-throughput screening (HTS) for novel antimalarial compounds targeting the hemozoin formation pathway and medicinal chemistry optimization of the hit compounds. Computational modeling of the data, pooled with publically available HTS results, allowed for the development of Bayesian models to predict antiplasmodial activity and describe the common features of hemozoin inhibiting compounds. Synthesis and biological testing of the derivatives provided tool compounds for further understanding of the mechanism in which hemozoin inhibitors accumulate and result in the increase of free heme in the parasite’s digestive vacuole. 
In 2015, Kathryn commenced a postdoctoral research fellowship at the H3D Drug Discovery and Development Centre in Cape Town, which gave her further invaluable experience in the field of medicinal and synthetic chemistry, working to develop a late lead series for an MMV-funded project.
From 2017 to 2020, Kathryn carried out postdoctoral research in the Fidock Lab, at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Here, she was involved in multiple projects focusing on different aspects of antimalarial drug discovery, drug resistance and malaria genetics. This included conducting accumulation studies with radiolabeled antimalarials in resistant field isolates; carrying out resistance selection experiments with novel compounds for elucidating mechanisms of action and identifying new drugs targets; computational modeling of mutations in the cryo-EM solved structure of the Plasmodium falciparum chloroquine resistance transporter (PfCRT); and genetically editing African malaria parasites with drug-resistance conferring PfCRT mutations, which are present in Southeast Asia. This work showed the ability of important antimalarials to become less effective in Africa if these mutations were to arise there.
In March 2020, Kathryn rejoined UCT and H3D as a Research Officer, reporting directly to Kelly Chibale. She aspires to support malaria research activities at UCT/H3D by utilizing her diverse experimental skills and antimalarial drug development experience, supervising postgraduate students within the Department of Chemistry and establishing malaria genetics research in South Africa.