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Prof Dorrington Research Projects

SA/UK MRC: Antimicrobial Drug Discovery Hub

The MNP Research Group began 2020 on a high note, receiving a grant from the SA/UK MRC Newton Fund’s Antibiotic Accelerator Initiative. With the development of the Covid-19 pandemic, the launch of the Project coincided with increased community interest in antibiotic development and vaccine research. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a significant threat to global public health, and in South Africa the leading AMR threats reflect those on the WHO list of Critical/High Priority pathogens, which includes Gram-negative ESKAPE organisms and Neisseria gonorrhoea. There is a clear unmet need for new agents to combat these bacterial pathogens.

We have been hard at work initiating the ADD (Antimicrobial Drug Discovery) Hub at Rhodes University, in collaboration with Prof Mat Upton at Plymouth University, UK. The ADD Hub Consortium includes researchers from South African and UK institutions (please see below for more information of our Collaborators). The overall aim of the SA/UK MRC ADD Hub Consortium is to build on the extensive repertoire of SA and UK drug discovery expertise to unlock the potential resources contained in natural marine and terrestrial biota. The ADD Hub Consortium is a complementary, multi-disciplinary and balanced team of international experts in medical microbiology, NP discovery, antibiotic evaluation, biophysical analysis, bioinformatics, metagenomics, molecular biology and in silico discovery and recombinant expression. Working together on this project provides the opportunity to further develop AMR drug discovery by building capacity for future research to explore the NP diversity in samples from SA and other locations, and provide an ongoing supply chain of new antibiotic leads.

There is a strong emphasis on screening samples form SA, which is the third most biodiverse natural habitat on Earth and with the potential to deliver key Natural Product (NP)- derived antibiotics that are new to science and able to meet the need for new antibiotics. Natural Products provide an unpresented starting point for antibiotic discovery; NPs and their synthetic analogues are the source of >80% of all clinically-utilised antibiotics. They represent the only validated source of chemical diversity capable of delivering a sustained pipeline of novel antibacterial drug candidates.

Our integrated programme of research and training across the UK and SA will draw on our expertise and access to diverse resources across out transnational network. Through the Hub’s activities, we will establish new infrastructure, simultaneously expanding cutting-edge research capacity, and we will comprehensively rejuvenate the discovery of novel antimicrobials from NP sources.


Co-Principal Investigator: Prof Mat Upton (University of Plymouth)



South African Collaborators:

Prof Rui Krause (Rhodes University)


Prof Perry Kaye (Rhodes University)


Dr Gwynneth Matcher (South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity)


Dr Marilize Le Roes-Hill (Cape Peninsula University of Technology)


Dr Derek Ndinteh (University of Johannesburg)


Prof Karin Jacobs (Stellenbosch University)


Prof Fanie van Heerden (University of Kwa-Zulu Natal)


United Kingdom Collaborators:

Prof Paul Race (University of Bristol)


Prof Alex O’Neill (University of Leeds)


Prof Rebecca Goss (St Andrews University)


Dr Hai Deng (University of Aberdeen)



Link to: https://www.ru.ac.za/latestnews/rhodesuniversityleadsaninternationalresearchcollaborationtodiscoverand.html

More information: Roxanne Higgitt (r.higgitt@sun.ac.za)

NRF Community of Practice: Marine Spatial Planning of Algoa Bay

South Africa has a strong maritime history, consisting of more ocean territory than land, and has >40% of the population living in close proximity to the coastline. Operation Phakisa and the Maritime Navigation Chart are roadmaps towards unlocking the economic potential of the ocean (the Blue Economy) and establishing SA as a global maritime nation by 2030.

The three oceans around SA (Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans) play a vital role in determining southern Africa’s climate and weather patterns, and they also have a strong influence on the global climate. The goods and services provided by the oceans and coasts are threatened by climate and global change, and uncertainty about the impact and consequences makes it difficult to manage these important resources.  Mitigating climate change also provides an economic opportunity for SA’s Blue Economy. In the development of the Blue Economy, the exploitation of living (fisheries, aquaculture, tourism) and non-living (oil and gas, minerals, energy) marine resources should be on a scale that is socially and economically justifiable, and ecologically sustainable. To achieve this, the National Government has recognized the need to develop a Marine Spatial Plan for SA ocean territories.

The South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) Algoa Bay Sentinel Site for Long-Term Ecological Research (established in 2007) is the best monitored coastal area in Africa and in the Southern Hemisphere. The diversity of habitats, oceanographic processes and socio-economic reliance on the marine environment in Algoa Bay has provided dynamic natural laboratories for carrying out multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional field-based research that could then be applied to the rest of the region. There is already a substantial body of information on the Algoa Bay system that was significantly improved on during the first phase of the CoP.  The continuing and proposed research of the CoP will build on and add value to the suite of available datasets and fill the gaps in existing knowledge identified during CoP Phase 1 and build a Social-Ecological Framework for Marine Management in Algoa Bay.

More information: Roxanne Higgitt (r.higgitt@sun.ac.za)


Last Modified: Thu, 19 Aug 2021 12:03:41 SAST