Plenary Speakers

It is with great enthusiasm that we welcome you to the North-West University, Potchefstroom, for the SASBMB-FASBMB conference, July 8 -11, 2018

(Note: the list is not final and will be updated in due course)


Prof Jeremy Nicholson, Imperial College London, UK

Prof Jeremy Nicholson

Jeremy K. Nicholson Professor of Biological Chemistry Head of the Department of Surgery, Cancer and Interventional Medicine

Director of the MRC-NIHR National Phenome Centre

Director of the Centre for Gut and Digestive Health (Institute of Global Health Innovation)

Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London

Professor Nicholson obtained his BSc from Liverpool University (1977) and his PhD from London University (1980) in Biochemistry working on the application of analytical electron microscopy and the applications of energy dispersive X-Ray microanalysis in molecular toxicology and inorganic biochemistry. After several academic appointments at London University (School of Pharmacy and Birkbeck College, London, 1981-1991) he was appointed Professor of Biological Chemistry (1992). In 1998 he moved to Imperial College London as Professor and Head of Biological Chemistry and subsequently Head of the Department of Biomolecular Medicine (2006) and Head of the Department of Surgery and Cancer in 2009 where he runs a series of research programs in stratified medicine, molecular phenotyping and molecular systems biology. In 2012 Nicholson became the Director of world’s first National Phenome Centre specialising in large-scale molecular phenotyping and he also directs the Imperial Biomedical Research Centre Stratified medicine program and Clinical Phenome Centre. Nicholson is the author of over 700 peer-reviewed scientific papers and many other articles/patents on the development and application of novel spectroscopic and chemometric approaches to the investigation of metabolic systems failure, metabolome-wide association studies and pharmaocometabonomics. Nicholson is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, The Royal College of Pathologists, The British Toxicological Society, The Royal Society of Biology and is a consultant to several pharmaceutical/healthcare companies. Nicholson’s research has been recognised by several awards including: The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Silver (1992) and Gold (1997) Medals for Analytical Chemistry; the Chromatographic Society Jubilee Silver Medal (1994); the Pfizer Prize for Chemical and Medicinal Technology (2002); the RSC medal for Chemical Biology (2003); the RSC Interdisciplinary Prize (2008) the RSC Theophilus Redwood Lectureship (2008); the Pfizer Global Research Prize for Chemistry (2006); the NIH Stars in Cancer and Nutrition Distinguished Lecturer (2010), the Semelweiss-Budapest Prize for Biomedicine (2010), The Warren Lecturer, Vanderbilt University (2015). He is a Thomson-Reuters ISI Highly cited researcher (2014 and 2015, Pharmacology and Toxicology, WoS H index = 109). Professor Nicholson was elected as a Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences in 2010, elected Lifetime Honorary Member of the US Society of Toxicology in 2013, and Honorary Lifetime Member of the International Metabolomics society in 2013. He holds honorary professorships at 12 Universities (including The Mayo Clinic, USA, University of New South Wales, University of Western Australia, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan and Dalian, Tsinghua University, Beijing and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Fudan University and Nanyang Technological University Singapore. In 2014 was Elected as an Albert Einstein Professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is a founder director of Metabometrix (incorporated 2001), an Imperial College spin-off company specializing in molecular phenotyping, clinical diagnostics and toxicological screening.


Prof Ulrich-Brandt

Prof Ulrich Brandt, Radboud UMC University Medical Centre, The Netherlands

Prof Ulrich Brandt

Ulrich Brandt is Professor for Mitochondrial Molecular Medicine at the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands and Adjunct Professor for Biochemistry at the Cluster of Excellence “Macromolecular Complexes” of the Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Dr. Brandt graduated in Biochemistry from the Eberhard-Karls University in Tübingen and obtained his PhD from the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich for his research on specific inhibitors of the mitochondrial cytochrome bc1 complex and functional aspects of cytochrome c oxidase. Between 1991 and 1993, he was a Feodor-Lynen fellow of the Humboldt Foundation at the Dartmouth Medical School, New Hampshire, where he started working in the field of yeast genetics. In 1993, he returned to Germany to the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, where he became a Docent in 1994 and a Professor of Biochemistry in 1996. From 1997 to 2009 Dr. Brandt was Deputy-Director and from 2009-2012 Director of the Centre of Biological Chemistry at the Medical Faculty, Goethe-University. And from 1997-2012 he served as Secretary General of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM). He is founding member of the Cluster of Excellence “Macromolecular Complexes” of the Goethe-University. Since 2012 he has been Editor-in-Chief of the BBA and from 2005-2013 he was Executive Editor of BBA Bioenergetics. Dr. Brandt’s research interest focuses on the structure and function of respiratory chain complexes. His group established the strictly aerobic yeast Yarrowia lipolytica as a powerful model to study mitochondrial complex I leading to a series of discoveries especially on the ubiquinone and inhibitor binding domain. In recent years he published the X-ray structure of this giant membrane integral multiprotein complex shedding light on the still enigmatic molecular mechanism of energy conversion by this redox driven proton pump. In 2012 his group established complexome profiling and has now developed it into a powerful proteomics approach to study the composition and dynamics of multiprotein complexes. This allowed deciphering the pathway by which the 44 different subunits of mitochondrial complex I are assembled and led to the discovery of several assembly factors supporting this process. Dr. Brandt has also studied numerous other aspects of mitochondria biology bridging classical bioenergetics and the exciting recent developments that feature mitochondria as key players in apoptosis, degenerative disorders and ageing.


Dr Efstathios S Gonos, National Hellenic Research foundation, Athens, Greece

Dr Efstathios S Gonos

Dr Efstathios Gonos graduated from the Department of Pharmacy, University of Athens, Greece, obtained his Ph.D. at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Glasgow, Britain and a Docent in Biomedicine at the Orebro University, Medical School, Sweden. He worked at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in London, Britain and since 2002 is Director of Research at the National Hellenic Research Foundation/IBMCB. His research focuses on the genetic and environmental factors that are linked to human aging and longevity. He has published more than 120 research articles, is author of 14 monographs and patents holder that have resulted in the development of novel anti-aging products. Dr. Gonos has been a ''Senior expert'' of E.U. in ''Human development and the aging process'' and Deputy National Representative of Greece in E.U. in ''Genomics and Biotechnology for Health''. He is member of the Executive Committee of International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB), past-member of the Advanced Course Committee of Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS), past member of the Board of Directors of the ''Society of Free Radicals Research-Europe'', Editor-in-Chief of ''Mechanisms of Aging & Development'' and Editorial Board member of  ''Experimental Gerontology'', ''Free Radicals Research”, “IUBMB Life”, “Redox Biology”, ''Aging Cell'' (-2007), ''Biogerontology'' (-2009) and ''Molecular Aspects of Medicine'' (-2016).


Prof Valerie Mizrahi, University of Cape Town

Prof Valerie Mizrahi

Valerie Mizrahi is director of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine at UCT. She also directs the MRC/NHLS/UCT Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit, co-directs the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research, and was a Senior International Research Scholar of the HHMI from 2012-2017. Her research focuses on aspects of the physiology and metabolism of Mycobacterium tuberculosis of relevance to TB drug resistance, mycobacterial persistence and TB drug discovery. Valerie holds an A1 rating from the NRF. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, African Academy of Science and Royal Society of South Africa, an Associate Fellow of TWAS, and Member of the Academy of Science of SA. Her major awards include the 2013 Christophe Mérieux Prize from the Mérieux Foundation and Institut de France; Order of the Mapungubwe(Silver) in 2007;2017 Platinum Medal from the SAMRC; Gold and Silver Medals of the SASBMB; and 2000 Unesco-L’Oréal For Women in Science Award (Africa& Middle East).


Prof Thumbi Ndung'u, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Prof ThumbiNdung'u

Prof Thumbi Ndung’u is an Investigator and Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban, South Africa. He is Professor and Victor Daitz Chair in HIV/TB Research and Director of the HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP) at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal.  He holds the South African Research Chair in Systems Biology of HIV/AIDS. He is an Adjunct Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.He is the Programme Director of the Sub-Saharan Africa Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE), a research and capacity building initiative funded by the Wellcome Trust.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and obtained a PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health (Virology) from Harvard University, United States. He is on the advisory board of the Global Health and Vaccination Research Programme (GLOBVAC), The Research Council of Norway, and is a member of the External Advisory Board of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN).

His research interests are host-pathogen interactions, particularly immune mechanisms of HIV and TB control. He has co-authored numerous manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals. He has received grant funding from the South African National Research Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Wellcome Trust among others. He is leading a multidisciplinary team of researchers working in the fields of HIV and TB immunopathogenesis, vaccine development and immune-based HIV functional cure strategies. He has special interest in capacity building for biomedical research in Africa.


Prof Ian Dubery, University of Johannesburg

Prof Ian Dubery

Ian Dubery is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Johannesburg. The focus of his research is understanding the molecular and biochemical aspects of plant - microbe interactions, inducible host responses to pathogen attack and innate immunity in general. He has contributed much to the present knowledge on bacterial lipopolysaccharides as microbe-associated molecular pattern (MAMP) molecules, able to trigger plant defence (MAMP-triggered immunity) and subsequently to induce protection in plants.

He is an internationally acclaimed researcher and has published more than 140 papers in leading international journals specialising in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of plant- and microbial systems. The impact of his work is reflected by ah-index factor of 31. Five of his previous students are current professors in Biochemistry or Plant Science departments at South African universities. Others are group leaders at research institutes or divisions of the ARC and the CSIR.

He is an associated research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt foundation in Germany and has received many national and international awards for research excellence, the most recent the 2016 Gold Medal from the South African Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SASBMB).


Prof Florian Bauer (preliminary), University of Stellenbosch

Prof Florian Bauer

Born in Germany, I pursued my tertiary education in France and obtained a PhD at the University of Bordeaux II in 1992. My current position is Professor in Wine Biotechnology and South African Research Chair in Integrated Wine Science, based at the Institute for Wine Biotechnology, Department of Viticulture and Oenology, University of Stellenbosch. My research focuses on wine-relevant aspects of yeast physiology, genetics and molecular biology, including the genetic and metabolic regulatory networks that control metabolism, cell wall properties and interactions between wine microorganisms. More recently, the focus has shifted towards investigating the dynamics of wine-associated microbial ecosystems, synthetic ecology and the integration of new data analysis tools. Research data have been published in 75 peer-reviewed articles, many book chapters and popular articles. I have been invited to present numerous keynote, opening or plenary lectures at international and national conferences, and twenty Ph.D. and twenty-six M.Sc. students have graduated under my supervision.


Prof Wentzel-Gelderblom, Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Prof Wentzel-Gelderblom

Prof Gelderblom obtained his PhD and DSc degree at the University of Stellenbosch in 1986 and 2009, respectively. He received a postdoctoral fellowship from the MRC during 1988 and spent one year in the Department Pathology of the Toronto University under the guidance of Prof E Farber, a world authority on rat liver carcinogenesis. During 1996 he spent one year at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) after receiving the Visiting Scientist Award conducting research on the mechanisms of cancer induction by the fumonisins fungal toxins. He served on international research working groups of the WHO (JECFA) and IARC on the evaluation of risk parameters and carcinogenesis potency of the fumonisin B mycotoxins during 2001 and 2002. He is invited as plenary speaker and/or chairperson on a regular basis to many national and international research conferences on fumonisins organised by the FDA, USA and the Gordon Research Conference on Mycotoxins and Phycotoxins.

Prof Gelderblom major research interests include Chemical Carcinogenesis, Mycotoxicologyand Cancer chemoprevention by herbal teas and dietary fatty acids.

Some research highlights:

  • Sustained a record of publishing in leading general scientific journals (Carcinogenesis, Cancer Letters, Nature Medicine, Mutation Research, Food and Chemical Toxicology, Toxicology and J Agric and Food Chem)
  • His work has been highlighted in popular science articles as reflected by the high science citation index (between 500 to 800) of some papers
  • Established strong collaborative links with several national and internationally scientists in his field.
  • Extraordinary Professor at the Department of Biochemistry, Stellenbosch University
  • Member of the Editorial Board of Scientific World Journal
  • B1 rated Scientist with an H-index of 47

Current position: Adjunct Professor and Co-Chair of the Institute of Biomedical and Microbial Biotechnology, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Bellville Campus, South Africa

Scientific Publications:                  131

Books/Chapters in Books:           15

National Conferences:                   155

International Conferences:           183

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Cell: 0824693758


Prof Debra Meyer, University of Johannesburg

Prof Debra Meyer

Debra Meyer is a Professor of Biochemistry, and Executive Dean of Science at the University of Johannesburg. She was formerly Head of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria. Prof Meyer holds a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of California, Davis (USA), a Master’s degree from the Rand Afrikaans University and completed executive leadership training at Harvard and the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science. She is currently a director or trustee of several multi- and national organisations/trusts.

Prof Meyer is interested in the effect of HIV/AIDS on metabolism as well as developing treatment options from natural sources including plant and marine materials. She has also published research on metallodrugs with effects on HIV and associated pathologies. Prof Meyer is actively involved in social issues, especially focusing on HIV/AIDS and multilingualism in South Africa. She has been the recipient of various awards for science expertise and community service.


Prof Janet Hapgood, University of Cape Town 

Prof Janet Hapgood

After completing her Post Doc overseas in 1988, Prof Hapgood held research positions at UCT from 1989 – 1996, during which time she conducted full time independent lab-based research. Since 1996 she has held full time academic positions in South Africa, during which time she has been engaged in the full spectrum of academic activities, including undergraduate teaching at all levels, course design, administration and planning, administration at departmental, faculty and senate level, postgraduate training, and running an independent research program. She has held a Professorship at UCT since 2007, and is currently HOD of the Dept. of Molecular and Cell Biology. Her passion is basic research and postgraduate training. She has trained about 40 MSc/PhD students to completion, mainly as principle supervisor. She has published 63 papers in international peer-reviewed journals, most as first or senior author, together with her postgraduate students and collaborators, and has an h-index of 29. She is indebted to her PhD supervisor Prof Claus von Holt, for much of her scientific training. She is a single mother with two boys aged 19 and 20. Her other interests are literature, hiking and music.

 Prof Hapgood's field is broadly in intracellular molecular mechanisms of action of steroid receptors, in particular the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Research is focussed on ligand-selectivity, regulation of gene expression as well as cross talk between steroid receptors and other signalling pathways, which allows functional integration between stress, reproduction and immune function. This research is conducted in the broad context of reproduction, inflammation, contraception and infectious disease, in particular HIV-1. Different progestins are used in contraception. MPA, widely used as an injectable contraceptive in Sub-Saharan Africa, has been reported in observational clinical studies to increase HIV-1 acquisition, unlike another injectable contraceptive NET-EN. The Hapgood lab is investigating the molecular basis for this difference. Broadly, the lab is investigating the mechanisms and effects on immune function and HIV-1 pathogenesis of different progestin contraceptives via the GR, as well as cross talk between the GR and other receptors, and the role of the unliganded GR. The effects of different progestins via different steroid receptors, as well as their metabolism, are also being investigated. Reciprocal modulation of progestins and ARVs is another area of interest, with a view to choice of combination therapies to inhibit both HIV-1 acquisition and pregnancy. The work on HIV and contraceptives is highly relevant to women’s choice of contraception in areas of high risk of HIV-1 infection in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa in particular, and is supported by a National Institutes of Health (USA) NIH (R01) five year grant awarded to Prof Hapgood in 2015.  Prof Hapgood currently acts as a temporary adviser for WHO on contraceptives and HIV-1.


Prof Albie van Dijk, North-West University

Albie van Dijk

I have worked at four research institutions on three continents: The Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (OVI) in South Africa; the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Canberra, Australia; the Biotechnology Institute of the University of Helsinki, Finland and the Biochemistry Department of North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

I currently focus mainly on molecular virology but also on molecular detoxification profiling. The advent of reverse genetics is the most transformative technological advance in virology the past 20 years. With reverse genetics viruses can be manipulated to gain fundamental insight in their biology, replication and pathogenesis. Worldwide, reverse genetics combined with next generation sequencing are used to manipulate virus genomes which is revolutionising research, vaccine design and development of viral therapy. I strive to use reverse genetics to unravel the complexities of the replication cycle of rotavirus and African horse sickness virus and the development of rationally designed, affordable recombinant vaccine candidates for rotavirus diarrhoea based on regional viral strains. My molecular metabolism research interest is on detoxification profiling to improve the quality of life and performance of individuals using several genomics technologies.