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Ed Rybicki | Biopharming Research Unit

Research | Publications | Patents | Collaborations | Lab members | Telephone: +27 21 650 3265 | Facsimile: +27 21 650 2646


Vaccinology / protein expression
Research activities here are centred on the use of plants and of recombinant baculoviruses in insect tissue cultures to make candidate vaccines against Human papillomaviruses, HIV-1 subtype C, Beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) of psittacines, H5N1 and H1N1 influenza viruses, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever and Rift Valley fever viruses, and Foot and mouth disease virus. The use of geminiviruses as vectors of foreign genes in plants is a topic of interest. The group also has a strong interest in the use of novel DNA vaccine vectors incorporating Porcine circovirus type 1 (PCV-1) enhancer elements, and the use of plants to make commercially important reagents and diagnostics.

Marine Viromics / Virus Diversity
A recent project is a next-generation sequencing programme aimed at assessing oceanic and near-shore diversity of viruses, and in particular those associated with cellular organisms important in marine food webs. We are also continuing an investigation of plant geminivirus diversity and molecular biology (since 1985), of Human papillomaviruses (since 1989) and of Beak and feather disease virus of psittacines in southern Africa (since 2004).

Virus graphics courtesy of Russell Kightley

Selected publications

I have authored or co-authored over 120 articles and 19 reviews in peer-reviewed journals, and about 20 book chapters, as well as a number of popular or opinion articles and conference report-backs in journals. A comprehensive and up-to-date list is available via Google Scholar citations.

As of late June 2015, I have published two ebooks with a virology theme on the Apple iBooks Store. These are A Short History of the Discovery of Viruses, and Influenza Virus: Introduction to a Killer. Both were composed using Apple's iBooks Author app, and published in iBooks format, for reading with the iBooks app on Mac, iPad or iPhone. I am amenable to publishing PDF versions of both if there is any demand - however, this means losing some of the iBooks functionality.

Sadly, neither is available on the South African store, so if you would like one, go to the US/UK stores via iTunes. If you would like a promotional code in order to assess the books for recommendation to students or colleagues, please contact me directly.

I have been involved since 1994 in writing educational and study material for the Web, and my much-updated Electronic Introduction to Molecular Virology is still available on this site, as well as via the UCT Open Educational Resources page. One of the more accessed resources in the UCT OER repository is my Manual of Online Molecular Biology Techniques, which is extensively used by researchers outside of UCT.

Additionally, I maintain a university-level Virology teaching resource called ViroBlogy, as well as a general public information site called Virology News. I also run the International Society for Plant Molecular Farming site, co-curate an information page on aquatic viruses and another on virology and bioinformatics, and tweet on virology topics (and other things) under @edrybicki.

I have also written a number of stories, essays and songs for the Web over the last 20 years.


I am listed as an inventor on some 17 patent families, with around 44 country patents published (see Google Scholar).
Recent patents:
2013 | HPV Chimaeric Particle, EP Rybicki, II Hitzeroth | WO Patent 2,013,080,187
2013 | Expression of Proteins in Plants, A Williamson, EP Rybicki, JM Maclean, II Becker-Hitzeroth | US Patent 20,130,130,314
2012 | Chimaeric Human Papillomavirus 16 L1 Virus-like Particles and a Method for Preparing the Particles, AD Varsani, EP Rybicki | US Patent 8,163,557
2011 | Recombinant Protein Bodies as Immunogen-Specific Adjuvants, EP Rybicki, AE Meyers, F Devesa, P Marzábal Luna, II Hitzeroth, P Öhlschläger | US Patent 20,110,262,478
2011 | Expression of Viral Proteins in Plants, A Williamson, EP Rybicki, JM Maclean | EP Patent 2,374,892
2011 | Method for Enhancing the Expression of HPV L1, EP Rybicki, II Hitzeroth | WO Patent WO/2011/077,371    


Prof Vernon Coyne, MCB
Prof Anna-Lise Williamson, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine
Prof Sue Harrison, Dept Chemical Engineering, UCT
Prof Marietjie Venter, University of Pretoria
Markus Sack, Fraunhofer Institute, Aachen
Dr Tomas Moravec, Institute of Experimental Botany, Czech Republic
Dr Neil Christensen, Dept Pathology, Penn State, USA
Miriam Bastida, ZIP Solutions, Spain
Andres Wigdorowitz, INTA, Argentina
Marc-Andre D’Aoust, Medicago, Canada

Lab members
Prof Ed Rybicki
Principal Investigator
Office 303A
Tel +27 21 650 3265
Fax +27 21 650 2646
More informationAssoc. Prof. Inga Hitzeroth
Senior Research Officer
Lab 304 | Tel +27 21 650 5712
Own website
More informationDr Ann Meyers
Research Officer
Lab 304 | Tel +27 21 650 5712
Own website
Renate More informationDr Renate Lamprecht
Honorary Research Affiliate
Dr Megan Hendrickse Dr Megan HendrikseMore information
Post-doctoral fellow
Sue More informationDr Sue Dennis
Post-doctoral fellow
Dr Alta van ZylMore information
Post-doctoral fellow
Sandiswa MbewanaMore information
Post-doctoral fellow
Emmanuel MargolinMore information
Post-doctoral fellow
Aleyo ChabedaMore information
Post-doctoral fellow
Matt VerbeekMore information
Scientific officer
Phindile XimbaMore information
PhD student
Buyani Ndlovu Buyani NdlovuMore information
PhD student
Jennifer StanderMore information
PhD student

More informationMélie Buyse
PhD student

dylan Dylan StevensMore information
PhD student
Paulina NaupaMore information
MSc student
Ayesha AdamsMore information
MSc student
Shelley FearonMore information
MSc student
Hendrik Els Hendrik ElsMore information
MSc student
Inge Pietersen Inge PietersenMore information
MSc student
Asanda MatisoMore information
MSc student
Frances LeesMore information
MSc student
Tim PlasketMore information
MSc student
Aune AngobeMore information
MSc student 
Gloria LuhangaMore information
MSc student 
Munyaradzi TinarwoMore information
MSc student
Jason NaudeMore information
MSc student
Abigail GwynnMore information
MSc student
Mulondo GoodmanMore information
NRF intern
Assoc. Prof. Inga Isabel Hitzeroth
Senior Research Officer
I grew up in Namibia and studied in South Africa at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town from 1980 - 1986. I did my undergraduate studies in Microbiology and Biochemistry and my PhD on hake population genetics while working for Sea Fisheries in Cape Town. My post-doctoral years I spent at medical school at UCT working on gonadotropin releasing hormone. In 2000 I started to work in Prof Rybicki’s group in a then very new and novel field of expression of viral proteins in plants.

We are specifically working on production of vaccine candidates against Human papillomavirus (HPV) and development of second generation vaccines that will be cheaper by production in plants and will protect against more than one type of HPV. HPV is the cause of cervical cancer the second most prevalent cancer in women in developing countries.

Other diseases that we are working on are: rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhoea in children; Beak and Feather Disease Virus (BFDV) which causes Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) in all psittacine birds (parrots); and Avian influenza.

The research that I have been involved in over the last thirteen years has come a long way from just being an idea to produce viral proteins in plants to becoming a reality with proteins being expressed in high enough levels to make it feasible to produce them as vaccines.

Go to Dr Hitzeroth's webpage
Dr Ann Meyers
Research Officer
I grew up in Pietermaritzburg and came to UCT to study a BSc in 1983. I graduated in 1985 and then did a BSc Hons at UCT in 1987.  After travelling overseas for 2 years and subsequently working as a Scientific Officer in the Department of Microbiology at UCT I enrolled for my PhD in the department in 1996 where I investigated the bacterial pathogens of the red macroalga Gracilaria gracilis and its response to bacterial infection.  I obtained my PhD in 1999 and took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship at UWC for a year working on marker assisted selection of disease-resistance apples.  In 2000, I took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Prof Ed Rybicki’s research group where I worked on the development of a HIV-1 Gag virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine in plants.  In 2010 I was appointed as a Research Officer and embarked on a new project involving the production of Bluetongue virus (BTV) particles in plants as a potential animal vaccine.  My research interests lie in the expression of recombinant proteins, diagnostics and subunit vaccines (particularly veterinary vaccines) in plants.   I am currently focussing on the production of second generation VLP vaccines against BTV as well as the related African horse sickness virus (AHSV). In addition, I am working on the production of AHSV antigens which can potentially be used as diagnostic reagents in ELISA. Since 2000 I have supervised and co-supervised a total of 10 MSc students and 7 PhD students as well as 14 honours students.
Go to Dr Meyers' webpage
Dr Renate Lamprecht
Honorary Research Affiliate
RenateI received my PhD in Genetics at Stellenbosch University in 2013, where I constructed a synthetic version of a commonly found grapevine virus to be used as a biotechnological tool for various applications in the grapevine industry. I did my Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Biopharming Research Unit between 2013 and 2016, where I was involved in the production of various HPV-related proteins. I was part of the team that have for the first time successfully produced plant-based HPV-16 pseudovirions in plants, and I demonstrated that these plant-based pseudovirions could be used in virus neutralisation assays in mammalian cells.
I joined Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines in South Africa, in 2016, and I am currently the Veterinary Health Portfolio Manager. Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines (Pty) Ltd is a biotechnology start-up based in Cape Town, South Africa.
I currently hold an Honorary Research Affiliate position with the Biopharming Research Unit where I will continue to supervise post-graduate students in veterinary vaccine development projects using plant-based expression platforms.
Dr Megan Hendrikse
Post-doctoral fellow
MeganI am originally from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape where I completed my MSc at NMMU (Formerly UPE). After moving to Cape Town, I undertook my PhD in Medical Biochemistry in the receptor biology group (UCT Medical Campus).

I am currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Prof Ed Rybicki's lab where I will be conducting the L2-based pseudovirion neutralising assay to evaluate the immunogenicity of in-house produced Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines.
Dr Alta van Zyl
Post-doctoral fellow
AltaI have been a member of the Biopharming Research Unit (BRU) since starting my PhD in 2009.  My PhD was focussed on the development of plant-based vaccine candidates for Bluetongue virus.  My research interests focus on the expression of recombinant proteins in plants, particularly proteins that can be used as potential vaccine candidates in humans and animals.  As a Post-doctoral fellow in the BRU I have worked on the development of a platform for the expression of Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine candidates in plants. My current research project focuses on the production of candidate vaccines against Lassa fever virus (LASV), Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) and Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV).
Dr Sandiswa Mbewana
Post-doctoral fellow
Sandiswa My Bsc Biotechnology degree was obtained at the University of the Western Cape in 2005. My post graduate studies (BSc Hons and MSc in Wine biotechnology) were completed at Stellenbosch University. My MSc was on the analysis of possible fungal resistance phenotype in transgenic tobacco plants over-expressing the native cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase gene. The key study area was Grapevine biotechnology focusing on disease resistance. I pursued my PhD at the University of Cape Town in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology from 2012 to 2017. My PhD was on the development of a candidate vaccine for Rift valley fever virus as well as diagnostic reagent in plants.
I am currently registered as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at UCT. My research projects focus on the development of commercially viable vaccine candidates and diagnostic reagents for animals and humans, using plants as an expression system.
Dr Aleyo Chabeda
Post-doctoral fellow
I am from Nairobi, Kenya. I completed my BSc in Biochemistry and Microbiology from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and a BSc (Hons) in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of Cape Town (UCT). On completion of my Honours, I remained at UCT to do a MSc in the Biopharming Research Unit and upgraded to PhD. My PhD research focused on the development of potentially broadly protective prophylactic virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine candidates for Human papillomaviruses (HPV), and the production of synthetic HPV viruses for the delivery of a DNA vaccine.

My Post-Doctoral research project will explore the use of CRIPSR/cas genome editing tools for the treatment and cure of cervical cancer, caused by HPV.
Dr Emmanuel Margolin
Post-doctoral fellow
I completed my undergraduate studies in the Molecular and Cell Biology department at UCT before moving to Medical School for postgraduate training. I am currently working for the HIV Vaccine Development Group at Medical School on a MRC- funded project which aims to develop next generation HIV vaccines, for the induction of neutralizing antibodies. During the course of the project I was responsible for the development of a transient expression system for the production of HIV-1 Envelope glycoprotein trimers in plants and their immunogenicity testing in animals. This aspect of the project is hosted in the Biopharming research unit where I work closely with Dr Ann Meyers and Prof Ed Rybicki. 

This study is ongoing and is currently focused on improving the glycosylation and folding of these HIV Env antigens, as well as expanding the range of glycoproteins produced with this platform. My main research interests at present are the production of viral glycoproteins in plants and mammalian cells for use as vaccine antigens. I also have an ongoing interest in the modification of the plant secretory pathway for the optimal production of candidate vaccines.
Dr Sue Dennis
Post-doctoral fellow
Sue DennisI completed my undergraduate studies at Stellenbosch University in 1985 followed by an Honours degree in Molecular Biology in 1986. I moved to Pretoria in 1987 to work on Bluetongue Virus at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute and while there, obtained an MSc degree in 1990 from the University of Pretoria. The next 25 years were spent assisting my husband, David, with the administration of his medical practice and being a Mom to our four children.

I registered for a PhD in 2015 in Prof Rybicki's Biopharming Research Unit working on the development of safe and cost effective VLP candidate vaccines against African horse sickness and graduated in July 2019. I am currently a post-doctoral research fellow in the BRU under the supervision of Prof Ed Rybicki, Assoc Prof Inga Hitzeroth and Dr Ann Meyers, where I am continuing to work with AHSV vaccine development while co-supervising other students on the project.
Matt Verbeek
Scientific officer
Matt VerbeekI am a typical Joburg boy having grown up in the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg. I moved down to Cape Town in 2012 to start my undergrad degree at UCT and seem to have fallen in love with the mother city. I completed my BSc in Chemistry and Biochemistry as well both my Honours and MSc in Molecular and Cell Biology, the latter within the BRU.
I am currently employed as a Scientific Officer under Dr Emmanuel Margolin to focus on research around the expression of notable viral glycoproteins in the pursuit of developing plant expressed vaccine candidates. The area of foremost importance being research into the development of a possible plant expressed HIV vaccine candidate.
Jennifer Stander
PhD student
Jennifer StanderI grew up in Gauteng and completed my BSc, BSc Honours and MSc in Microbiology at the University of Pretoria. My studies focused on establishing a high-throughput sequencing-based diagnostic system for the detection of grapevine viruses. My fascination with viruses and their diagnosis led me to BRU at the University of Cape Town, with their new and exciting approaches to serological reagent and vaccine development.
Working under the supervision of Prof. Ed Rybicki and Dr Ann Meyers, my PhD is focused on the expression of the West Nile Virus NS1 and prM-E genes as reagents for serological detection and VLPs as a candidate vaccine in N. benthamiana.
Mélie Buyse
PhD student
Melie BuyseI am a Belgian Vet. I completed my Masters in Veterinary Science at Ghent University 2010. I then went on to open my own veterinary practice. After 4 years of running my own business I decided I wanted to further my studies and embark on obtaining my PhD.

I am particularly interested in vaccine development as I had years of experience using the medication and identified a gap for new and improved vaccines. I came across the Biopharming Research Unit and I then knew that this would be the ideal environment for me to be able to contribute in this industry. I then packed up my entire life in one suitcase and made the move to Cape Town.

My PhD is based on developing a vaccine for Beak and Feather Disease Virus. I will be working under the supervision of Dr. Inga Hitzeroth and Prof. Ed Rybicki.
Phindile Ximba
PhD student
Phindile XimbaI am originally from the small town in the Northern side of KZN. I completed my B.Sc in Biochemistry and Chemistry at University of KwaZulu Natal in 2011. I then completed MSc in Biochemistry in 2014, also at UKZN. My MSc project focused on recombinant expression and characterisation of trypanosomal cysteine proteases for the development of point-of-care diagnostic tests for animal trypanosomiasis.

In 2015, I joined UCT Medical Virology lab as a scientific officer working on the SHIP project focusing on developing HIV-1 Env subunit vaccines to elicit broadly neutralising antibodies. I am currently registered as a PhD student under the co-supervision of Dr Ros Chapman, Prof. Anna-Lise Williamson, Dr Ann Mayers and Prof. Ed Rybicki. My project is focusing on using different tags to improve the production and immunogenicity of Env produced in both mammalian and plant expression systems.
Dylan Stevens
PhD student
Dylan StevensI obtained my undergraduate degrees in human genetics and phylogenetics from the University of Pretoria. I did a master’s degree in Molecular Biology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

I am currently doing a PhD at the Centre for Bioprocess Engineering Research (CeBER) looking into the production of high value heterologous proteins in green microalgae under the co-supervision of Dr Sue Huddy and Prof Rybicki from the BRU.
Buyani Ndlovu 
PhD student
Dylan StevensI was born and raised in Ladysmith, a small town in northern KwaZulu-Natal. I completed a BSc (Biological Science) and BSc Hons (Cell Biology) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and later obtained an MSc (Wine Biotechnology) at Stellenbosch University.
I am currently enrolled for a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology, working with Prof Inga Hitzeroth and Dr Aleyo Chabeda of Biopharming Research Unit. My research project focuses on developing replicating plant virus vectors for transient expression of recombinant proteins in plants.
Ayesha Admas
MSc student
Ayesha AdamsI completed my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Genetics at UCT in 2015. I then did my Honours degree in Molecular and Cell biology in the Biopharming Research Unit (BRU) and I am now doing my masters in the BRU under the supervision of Dr. Megan Hendrikse, Dr. Inga Hitzeroth and Prof Ed Rybicki. My Master’s project focuses on producing high yields of Human papillomavirus (HPV) pseudovirions in tobacco plants.
Shelley Fearon
MSc student
Shelley FearonI completed my BSc in Genetics and Ecology and BSc (Hons) in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town.
I am currently pursuing an MSc in the Biopharming Research Unit under the supervision of Dr. Ann Meyers, Dr. Inga Hitzeroth and Prof. Ed Rybicki. My project focuses on the African horse sickness virus (AHSV), a devastating, highly infectious disease affecting equids. The research involves producing AHSV-specific antibodies and VP7 crystalline-particles in plants, for the development of potential therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines.
Hendrik (Johann) Els
MSc student
HendrikOriginally from Johannesburg, I have done a BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Stellenbosch followed by Honours in Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town. My honours research entailed the production of recombinant Rotavirus virus-like particles in tobacco at the Biopharming Research Unit.

My MSc project combines both molecular biology with bioprocess engineering done at the Centre for Bioprocess Engineering (CeBER). The research entails working with algae viruses for new genetic engineering techniques under the supervision of Prof Rybicki, Dr Hitzeroth and Dr Harrison (CeBER).
Inge Pietersen
MSc student
Inge I am currently a DST-NRF intern in the Biopharming Research Unit at the University of Cape Town.

I grew up in Pretoria and completed both my BSc and BSc (Hons) at the University of Pretoria. After spending a year living in Amsterdam and travelling around Europe, I moved to Cape Town to pursue an MSc in the Biopharming Research Unit, under the supervision of Dr. Inga Hitzeroth, Prof. Ed Rybicki, and Dr. Ann Meyers.
The focus of my MSc project is the development of a prophylactic (and potentially therapeutic) vaccine against Bovine papillomavirus type-1, which has been implicated in numerous debilitating diseases and cancers in cattle and equids, including wild species such as zebra, giraffes, and sable antelope. The hope is that we will be able to produce vaccines against multiple BPV types.
Asanda Matiso
MSc student
I'm originally from King William's Town in the Eastern Cape. I completed my National diploma in Biotechnology (2010 - 2012) and BTech degree in Biomedical Technology (2013 - 2014) at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I first joined BRU in April 2016 as a NRF intern. I am currently pursuing my MSc under the supervision of Dr Ann Meyers, Dr Inga Hitzeroth and Prof Ed Rybicki. My project focuses on the use of a mouse phage display library to generate single chain variable fragments (scFvs) antibodies against Ribulose-1,5-biphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase or RuBisCO which is regarded as the main potential contaminant in plant produced proteins.
Paulina Naupa
MSc student
PaulinaI was born and raised in the northern part of Namibia. In 2013 I started my undergraduate studies in Bsc Microbiology (honours) at the University of Namibia, which I completed in 2016.  My honours project focused on the antibacterial properties of plants. I then moved to South Africa to pursue MSc with the biopharming research unit at the University of Cape Town under the supervision of Dr Inga Hitzeroth, Dr Alta van Zyl and Dr Megan Hendrickse. My Master’s project focuses on the production of Human papillomavirus (HPV) universal L2-based pseudovirions in tobacco plants.
Frances Lees
MSc student
FrancesI completed my BSc in Genetics and Biochemistry at UCT. I then completed a BSc (Hons) in Molecular and Cell Biology department at UCT under the supervision of  Prof. Nicola Illing, and my project focused on the extraction of ancient DNA from bones that have been excavated from South African archaeological sites.  

I am currently a first year Masters student in the Biopharming Research Unit in the MCB department, under the supervision of Dr Inga Hitzeroth and Dr Renate Lamprecht. My project focuses on expressing and the purification of outer membrane proteins and an enzyme of the Brucella bacterium in plants for the development of a candidate subunit vaccine. 
Tim Plasket
MSc student
TimI grew up in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. I moved to Cape Town to study at UCT in 2014. I completed my BSc with majors in Biochemistry and Genetics in 2016, which I then followed with a BSc(Hons) in Molecular and Cell Biology in 2017.

I am currently in the Biopharming Research Unit studying towards my MSc under the supervision of Dr Inga Hitzeroth and Dr Rosemary Meggersee. My project focuses on the African Horse Sickness Virus (AHSV), a midge-borne disease which severely affects equids in Sub-Saharan Africa. I am particularly interested in generating antibody-like molecules (short chain variable fragments or ScFvs) derived from a phage display library which are specific to AHSV serotype 5.
Aune Angobe
MSc student
AuneI grew up in the northern part of Namibia and moved to Windhoek to pursue BSc in Microbiology (honours) at the University of Namibia. My honours project focused on Anti-plasmodium activities in Selected Namibian herbs. In 2019 I moved to Cape Town to pursue Masters at the University of Cape Town. My project focuses on developing a plant-made immunoassay for the detection of porcine circovirus antibodies in South African Swine herds.
Gloria Luhanga
MSc student
GloriaI’m originally from Malawi. I acquired my undergraduate degree in Biomedicine (2015-2017) at Pearson Institute of Higher education in Midrand, South Africa. I later proceeded to do my Honours degree at the University of Cape Town and graduated with a BMedSc (Hons) in Medical Cell Biology (2018).
I’m currently pursuing my MSc in Molecular and Cell Biology in the BRU lab, with the supervision of Dr Inga Hitzeroth, Dr Ann Meyers and Dr Sue Dennis. My project focuses on investigating the production of a multivalent African horse sickness virus (AHSV) vaccine candidate. This will allow me to produce a vaccine which contains at least more than one VP2 domains (immunogenic component on the AHSV structure) from the nine known AHSV serotypes.
Munyaradzi Tinarwo
MSc student
MunyaradziI am currently an MSc student with interests in biopharming and virology. I am a holder of B.Tech (Hons) in Biotechnology from Chinhoyi University of Technology (Zimbabwe) and a BSc (Hons) in Microbiology from North-West University (South Africa). I am currently working on the African horse sickness virus for my MSc research. Previously, I have worked on Optimization of the Isolation and Cloning Techniques of the Kinase Domain of the Triphosphate Tunnel Metalloenzyme (TTM) gene from Arabidopsis thaliana. I also worked on the reduction of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) in distillery effluent by bioaugmentation techniques.
Jason Naude
MSc student
JasonI completed my BSc in Genetics and Biochemistry and joined the Biopharming Research Unit in my honours year. My research, which I took into Masters, involves the expression of two variants of the chikungunya virus (CHIKV) envelope 2 glycoprotein in tobacco plants for the development of a diagnostic reagent and a candidate vaccine.  CHIKV is a rapidly re-emerging arbovirus that is responsible for the largest epidemic for an alphavirus in the world.  There is neither a licensed vaccine against CHIKV nor a rapid diagnostic assay to screen for CHIKV infection. CHIKV infection displays identical symptoms to that of dengue, Ebola, Zika and yellow fever viruses. This is a problem as prognosis, treatment and patient care are very different between these similarly-symptomatic viruses.
Abigail Gwynn
MSc student
I grew up in Durban and moved to Cape Town in 2016 to study my undergraduate BSc degree at UCT majoring in genetics and biochemistry. I also completed my honours degree in molecular and cell biology at UCT. I was able to conduct my honours research project in my first choice lab – the BRU! My project aimed to produce an effective chimeric bluetongue virus-like particle vaccine in plants. This virus causes severe disease in sheep and is particularly a problem in South Africa where there are over 28 serotypes in circulation. I loved working in the BRU not only because of the science I was getting to do but also because of the welcoming environment. In the short time given for the honours project, I was able to make promising progress and am very lucky to be continuing with my BTV project for my MSc degree under the supervision of Dr Ann Meyers and Dr Sandiswa Mbewana.
Mulondo Goodman 
NRF intern
MulondoI am currently a DST-NRF intern in the Biopharming Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. I grew up in Malamangwa village in Limpopo province. I completed my Honours and Masters degree at the University of Venda. My honours project was based on the evaluation of the Qiagen DNA mini kit (commercial) against a standardized in-house extraction method for E. coli DNA from water samples, while my MSc project was based on the Characterization of human norovirus in Vhembe district, Limpopo province, South Africa.