Keynote Speakers

Professor Shabir Madhi, NICD/ NHLS

Professor Shabir Madhi is Executive Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Professor of Vaccinology and of Vaccinology and Director of the Medical Research Council Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit at University of the Witwatersrand (WITS). He also holds the position of Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation Research Chair in Vaccine Preventable Diseases. Prof Madhi completed his under-graduate degree at WITS in 1990, and subsequently completed his postgraduate training at WITS, including qualifying as a pediatrician in 1996 and obtaining his PhD in 2003. He is certified in Pediatric Infectious Diseases. He holds an A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) and has published over 300 peer reviewed journals, with an H-index factor of 50. Prof Mahdi has been involved in researching vaccine-preventable diseases for 19 years. His research which demonstrated a reduction in childhood morbidity through the use of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) and rotavirus vaccines, prompted South Africa to be the first in Africa to introduce these vaccines in national immunisation programs. These studies were also pivotal to the World Health Organization, who then recommended the introduction of these life-saving vaccines into public immunization programs globally. More recently, his research focus has expanded to reducing morbidity and mortality due to infectious causes during early infancy, with a specific focus on maternal immunization as an intervention.

Professor Glenda Gray, SAMRC/ NHLS

Professor Glenda Gray, MBBCH, FCPaeds (SA), DSc (honoris causa), and National Research Foundation (NRF) A-rated Scientist is the newly appointed President of the South African Medical Research Council. Prof Gray, who trained as a Medical Doctor and Paediatrician at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), co-founded and led the internationally renowned Perinatal HIV research Unit based at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. She has experience in Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, HIV vaccines and microbicides. She is the Co-PI of the HIV Vaccine Trial Network and Director of the HVTN International Programs. In 2002, she was awarded the Nelson Mandela Health and Human Rights Award for pioneering work done in the field of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV-1. She is a member of the Academy of Science in South Africa, and chairs their standing committee on health. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine, of the National Academies, and serves on their Global Health Board. She has also been confirmed as the new Chair Elect for the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD).

Prof Gray has also been awarded the IAPAC ‘Hero of Medicine’ award for work done in the field of HIV treatment in children and adults. In 2009, Prof James McIntyre and Prof Gray received the N’Galy-Mann lectureship in recognition of their HIV research contribution in South Africa. In June 2012, she received a DSc (honoris causa) from the Simon Fraser University, Vancouver for her work in the field of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. She has also been admitted into the American Academy of Microbiology in 2012. In 2013 she received the country’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe, granted by the President of SA for achievements in the international area which have served South Africa’s interest.

Professor Akin Abayomi, SU/ NICD

Professor Akin Abayomi, MBBS (London), MRCP (UK), FCPath Haem (SA), MPhil (UP), FRCP(Edin) PhD Project: Stem cells in HIV disease, Ethics and infrastructure In progress Prof Akin Abayomi is the Chief Pathologist and Head of the Division of Haematology at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa ( He studied at the Royal Medical College of St Bartholomew’s Hospital at the University of London where he attained his first graduate degree in Medicine. He went on to specialize in Internal Medicine and Haematology, obtaining fellowships from the Royal College of Medicine and the Royal College of Pathologists of the United Kingdom as well as the College of Medicine of South Africa. Prof Abayomi has worked in several countries around the world in both Internal Medicine and Haematology. His focus has mainly been on the complications of HIV and the development of laboratory and clinical capacity to rise to the challenge of the HIV epidemic in the developing world and Africa. He is the PI to the Tygerberg Lymphomas Study Group and the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium and a member of the H3Africa and B3Africa consortia. Prof Abayomi is the Director of the NHLS Stellenbosch Cape Town Biobank. He is also interested in the impact of climate change on health and the footprint of humanity on ecological integrity and human-wildlife interaction.

Professor Wendy Stevens, WITS/ NHLS

Professor Wendy Stevens, is the Head of the Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) and the Director of the National Priority Programs of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) in South Africa. Her research career has been focused largely in the HIV arena for over 15 years, as shown by over 220 peer-reviewed publications. Her career moved from the basic sciences to research and development of new technologies, with the most notable contribution being the final translation into practice in large scale national programs. She has contributed significantly to the development of capacity for affordable, accessible HIV diagnostics in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Her earlier work revolved around the establishment of the first molecular diagnostics program at Wits as well as the development and expansion of appropriate HIV diagnostic assays and algorithms. Prof Stevens’ work is focused on the opportunistic infections associated with HIV such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal infection and hepatitis B. The last 5 years have been spent expanding the national molecular GeneXpert TB testing program in South Africa servicing over 210 centres. She is also integrally involved in ensuring appropriate diagnostics are incorporated into the National Strategic Plans for HIV and TB in South Africa. She has served on national and international working groups advancing diagnostics, which has included consultations for the WHO, UNITAID, CDC, USAID, Gates foundation, Clinton foundation and the African Society of Laboratory Medicine. Her work has largely been grant funded by NIH ACTG, the Global fund, the CDC, Gates Foundation, amongst others. Her team is well known for their expertise in Implementation Science working on the systems to support effective diagnostics including geographical service mapping, costing and modeling, development of sophisticated quality assurance systems and establishment of clinically relevant laboratory databases and data distribution.

Dr Tshilidzi Muthivhi, NDoH

Dr Tshilidzi Muthivhi, is the current Director of Health Research in the South African National Department of Health (NDoH). Dr Muthivhi completed his under-graduate degree at the University of Limpopo, and subsequently completed his postgraduate training at the University of the Witwatersrand, obtaining his MSc (Medicine) with distinction in 1991, and PhD (Medicine) in 2001. Between 1994 and 2008 Dr Muthivhi held a senior management and research position in the Tuberculosis Epidemiology and Intervention Research units of the South African Medical Research Council. He subsequently persue his career at the South African National Blood Service (2008 to 2015) providing scientific leadership for research. His current duties include, facilitating and co-ordinating the implementation of the identified National Health Research Priorities, providing secretariat support to the statutory bodies including the National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC), National Health Research Committee (NHRC), and Health Data Advisory Co-ordination Committee (HDACC), providing leadership to research projects commissioned by the NDoH including the demographic health survey, facilitate the implementation of ethical guidelines in the conducting research and to develop and implement a National Health Research Observatory and related health research databases. .

Dr Sophia, Kisting

Dr Sophia Kisting is an Occupational Medicine Specialist with extensive public health and workplace experience in Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS). She is currently the Executive Director of the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) in South Africa. She returned to South Africa in 2012 after nearly 7 years at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva Switzerland. Dr Kisting played the lead scientific and lead technical role in the successful development of an ILO human rights protective international labour standard on HIV/AIDS and the world of work which had a profound positive impact on the protection of workers living with or affected by HIV. For 12 years prior to the above she was based at UCT, mainly in the School of Public Health as a senior researcher. During this time she was seconded to co-ordinate the WHO/ILO Joint Effort in Occupational Health in Africa and she played a lead role in the running of the Workers Clinic. She was extensively involved in clinical medicine in public hospitals in southern Africa which includes 5 years in the Soweto Community Health Centres. Dr Kisting was named as being amongst ten influential women in occupational health internationally, by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in the USA.

Mr Ben Durham Mr Ben Durham

Mr Ben Durham is Chief Director: Bio-innovation at the National Department of Science and Technology (DST) in South Africa. His responsibilities included the implementation of the South African Bio-economy Strategy, launched in January 2014, and he now is overseeing implementation of the three themes of Agricultural, Health, and Industrial sectors, as well as the Indigenous Knowledge based technology innovation. Ultimately the purpose is to develop and improve the efficiencies of the National System of Innovation, ensuring socio-economic benefits to the broader society. Ben has previously been a Programme Manager for two Research Support programmes at the National Research Foundation, before he joined the DST in 2003 as Director: Biotechnology. His key responsibility then was the implementation of South Africa’s National Biotechnology Strategy (2001), and key activities included strategic guidance, coordination, and institutional performance of the Biotechnology Regional Innovation Centres. Amongst others, Ben has been appointed to the position of vice chair of the Executive Council of the South African GMO Act (1997), on the biosafety regulation of GMOs; Board membership of the NHLS, and the research & innovation, and academic pathology sub committees. Ben is/has been on the boards of several companies/agencies involved in innovation, represents DST interest on several inter-departmental or international committees. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Technology Commercialisation through the Da Vinci Institute.

Dr Tim Tucker Dr Tim Tucker

Dr Tim Tucker MBChB; PhD; FCPath(SA)Viro is a strategist and clinician-scientist in the SA health and research sectors, with an academic and programmatic track record in HIV, hepatitis viruses, vaccines and public health programs in Africa and beyond. He is a Board member of the NHLS, the NHLS Research Trust, and the SA HIV Clinicians’ Society. He is a member of the US NIH AIDS Strategy Working Group. He founded his public health strategy business in 2005 (70 public health staff), after a career in clinical medicine; clinical and laboratory research; and leadership of South Africa’s largest R&D program, the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI). Tim owns “SEAD Consulting” –a public health consultancy dedicated to improving the health of poor communities through focused public health interventions. He has led the development of critical health strategies and interventions for public and private sector-funded activities. Tim is a specialist Clinical Virologist. He obtained a Ph.D. (UCT) in molecular virology. He has trained in business strategy at Wits. Tim has been a long standing honorary member of staff at UCT (Department of Pathology and School of Public Health and Family Medicine), where he lectures postgraduate students in the School of Public Health, the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine and the School of Management Studies.

Institution Abbreviations: : CDC – Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, NDoH – National Department of Health, NHLS – National Health Laboratory Service, NICD – National Institute for communicable diseases, NRF– National Research Foundation, SAMRC – South African Medical Research Council, SU – Stellenbosch University, UL – University of Limpopo, USAID – United State Agency for International Development, NIH ACTG – National Institute of Health AIDS Clinical Trial Groups, WHO – World Health Organization, WITS – University of the Witwatersrand , DST- Department of Science & Technology, IOL - International Labour Organization, NIOH – National Institute for Occupational Health, SAAVI – South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative, UCT – University of Cape Town, USA – United State of America.