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Research at Molecular and Cell Biology

The Molecular and Cell Department has interests and expertise in diverse areas of biology.

Plant desiccation research (Professors Farrant and Illing): the problem of desiccation in plants is being tackled by a combination of physiological and molecular approaches.

Plant biotechnology (Professor Rybicki and Dr Rafudeen): research is focussed on developing virus-resistant and drought-tolerant crops, and optimising transient and transgenic expression of pharmaceutically-relevant proteins.

Signal transduction in Arabidopsis thaliana is being studied during plant-pathogen and plant-insect interactions, as well as in the control of flowering time.

Eukaryotic gene expression (Professors Hapgood and Illing, Associate Professor Ingle and Dr Oelgeschläger): projects include regulation of transcription by steroid receptors, the role of circadian rhythms in regulating the plant immune responses, the regulation of gene transcription in the malaria parasite Plasmodium, and the regulation of gene expression during neuronal differentiation.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Genetics (Dr O'Ryan): This research focuses on the genetic, epigenetic and biochemical associations of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Molecular virology (Professor Rybicki): studies focus on the expression of antigens from human and animal viruses in plants and insect cells for use as human and animal vaccines, and on the genetic diversity and molecular biology of single-stranded DNA viruses.

Research in biochemistry (Professor Hapgood and Dr Oelgeschläger): includes investigating the structure, function and post-translational modification of HIV proteins and their interactions with host proteins with a view to understanding mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and drug development, and studies into the structure, assembly, function and regulation of the transcription initiation machinery in Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of severe malaria.

Research in cellular and molecular immunology (Dr Hurdayal) includes gene-deficient murine-models of human Leishmaniasis and parasite-based transcriptomics/proteomics to understand host susceptibility or resistance to Leishmania infection.

Research in marine biotechnology (Associate Professor Coyne): includes the development of vaccines for farmed kob, genomic and proteomic studies of the effect of stress and disease on the abalone immune system, and the role of marine microorganisms in abalone nutrition and disease resistance.

Research in microbiology (Dr Meyers and Dr Dube): South African soil and marine actinomycete bacteria are being screened for novel antibiotics and population genetics of Streptococcus pneumoniae in South African children.

Prof. Janet Hapgood
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... More...
Prof. Jill Farrant
My group has systematically investigated the mechanisms whereby desiccation-tolerant plants survive extreme conditions, with the view of introducing such characteristics into crops... More...
Prof. Nicola Illing
My primary research interest is to use the tools of modern genetics to unravel the answers to interesting evolutionary biology questions, using examples from the rich biological... More...
Prof. Ed Rybicki
Subunit vaccine and virus biotechnology group
Biofarming: plants are a potentially highly cost-effective...
Molecular virology and biotechnology... More...
Assoc. Prof. Vernon Coyne
My group conducts research in marine biotechnology that seeks to further our understanding of indigenous marine animals of commercial importance. Our current research includes... More...
Assoc. Prof. Rob Ingle
My group uses a variety of genetic approaches to study plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses, focusing on the following areas: Circadian clock regulation of immunity in plants... More...
Assoc. Prof. Suhail Rafudeen
My main research aim is to understand the molecular mechanisms of abiotic and biotic stress responses in plants and biotechnological improvement of crop plants important to Africa... More...
Dr Paul Meyers
We are investigating the diversity of South African actinobacteria as a source of novel antimycobacterial molecules (i.e. bioprospecting for new antibiotics). We are also... More...
Dr Colleen O'Ryan
My research group has been investigating genotype-phenotype associations of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) since 2014. Much of the published autism... More...
Dr Thomas Oelgeschläger
Our research focuses on the regulation of mRNA synthesis by RNA polymerase II (RNAP II) in eukaryotic cells. The process of transcription - the synthesis of RNA from a DNA... More...
Dr Ramona Hurdayal
In order to understand the correlates of host protection against and susceptibility to human leishmaniasis, which could aid in the development of novel treatment strategies... More...
Dr Felix Dube
Broader research interests here include the evolution and epidemiology of infectious diseases. The current focus is on Streptococcus pneumoniae (the ‘pneumococcus’), a bacterium that is... More...
Dr Ann Meyers
My research interests lie mainly in the expression of recombinant proteins in plants and in particular, vaccines for humans and animals which provide a cheaper alternative... More...
Dr Inga Hitzeroth
We are specifically working on production of vaccine candidates against Human papillomavirus (HPV) and development of second generation vaccines that will... More...
Dr Lara Donaldson
Our research looks at how plants discriminate between salinity and drought stress and how stress tolerance can be engineered in both model plants and locally relevant... More...










Human Health
Human Immunodeficiency Virus HIV (Janet Hapgood)
Vaccine Development (Ed Rybicki)
Neurobiology (Nicola Illing)
Drug Discovery
Antibiotics (Paul Meyers)
Novel Contraceptives (Janet Hapgood)
Anti-malarial compounds (Trevor Sewell)
Marine Biotechnology
Abalone Immunology (Vernon Coyne)
Pathogen and Stress Response in Seaweed (Vernon Coyne)
Probiotics (Vernon Coyne)
Probiotics (Vernon Coyne)
Antibiotic producing bacteria (Paul Meyers)
Molecular Evolution
Conservation Genetics (Colleen O’Ryan)
Evolution of Development (Nicola Illing)
Antibiotic-producing bacteria diversity (Paul Meyers)
Plant Molecular Biology
Desiccation tolerance in plants (Jill Farrant, Suhail Rafudeen, Nicola Illing)
Bioremediation (Robert Ingle)
Plant pathogen defence (Robert Ingle)
Vaccine development (Ed Rybicki)
Plant viruses (Ed Rybicki)
HIV (Janet Hapgood)