Christophe J Chestanga, Prof.

Fellow of AAS since 1986
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Born in 1935, Zimbabwe

Prof Chetsanga obtained his B.Sc. at the University of California in 1964, M.Sc. and PhD at the University of Toronto in 1967 and 1969, respectively.

He proceeded with his Post-doctoral studies from 1969 to 1972 at Harvard University in Cambridge. Subsequently he was Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Full Professor at University of Michigan (1972-1983); Senior Lecturer, Professor, Chairman of the Biochemistry Department, Dean of Science, Pro Vice Chancellor and Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe.

Currently he is Professor Emeritus, and Chairman of Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (2009 – present). His research interests include: regulation of RNA synthesis, chemical carcinogenesis, role of aflatoxins in liver cancer, enzymology of DNA repair, hepatitis B virus cloned in E. Coli. He has received numerous awards: Presidential award for cancer research, UNESCO Gold Medal award; recognized as one of the Greatest Minds of the 21st Century by the American Biographical Institute.

He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, TWAS Fellow, past Governing Council member of AAS, Past President of Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences. He has published 87 articles, reviewed and contributed in 4 books

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Collen Masimirembwa, (Prof.)

Medical Sciences

Collen Masimirembwa won the best BSc programs student award and the best BSc Honours in Biochemistry award (1989). He did his doctoral studies in Biochemistry on the metabolism of anti-parasitic drugs (University of Zimbabwe, 1994).

His work led to the elucidation of the biotransformation of the anti-schistosomicide, praziquantel, knowledge that is important in strategies of addressing the drug's low bioavailability.  In a unique feat of academic endeavor he also did a second PhD in Medical Biochemistry & Biophysics on the Pharmacogenetics of Drug Metabolizing Enzymes in African populations (Karolinska Institute, Sweden, 1995).

His work led to the discovery of the genetic basis of why people of African origin have reduced capacity to metabolize and eliminate CYP2D6 substrate drugs. For his pharmacogenetic studies he won the Medical Research day Awards of 1994. His postdoctoral research was on the molecular biology of Plasmodium falciparum (Uppsala University, 1996-1997).

Collen Masimirembwa has successfully built a biomedical research institute which has expertise in pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenomics for drug discovery. His work on the biotransformation of amodiaquine (ADQ) is giving insights into the design and synthesis of safer analogues of this anti-malarial drug. His work on the pharmacogenetics of HIV/AIDS treatment has resulted in a dosing algorithm for the safe use of efavirenz in African populations. 

Through collaborative agreements with several African universities, AiBST is training postgraduates (MSc and PhD) in the fields of Bioinformatics, Genomics, Statistical Genetics, Molecular Diagnostics, and Bioanalytical Chemistry.

The institute currently leads the African Pharmacogenomics Consortium which aims to establish the genomic diversity of African populations with a view to addressing healthcare issues on the continent. For its expertise in pharmacokinetics and toxicology research, AiBST was selected as a centre of excellence by the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI) to support drug discovery efforts in Africa.

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Valerie Mizrahi, Prof

Fellow of AAS since 2015
Chemistry: Tuberculosis
Born in 1958

Prior to taking up her current position at the University of Cape Town, Mizrahi was based in the School of Pathology of the University of the Witwatersrand and National Health Laboratory Service in Johannesburg from 1989, where she led a tuberculosis research group, and became a Research Professor in 2001.

Mizrahi’s research has focused on studying aspects of the physiology and metabolism of Mycobacterium tuberculosis of relevance to TB drug resistance, mycobacterial persistence and TB drug discovery. In collaboration with colleagues at the NIAID, Mizrahi discovered a novel system for DNA damage tolerance and SOS mutagenesis in mycobacteria, which involves the translesion polymerase, DnaE2. Her team subsequently showed that DnaE2 acts as part of a larger mutagenic complex, which is widely distributed in nature. In other work, he group elucidated the role of the family of five resuscitation-promoting factors in growth, culturability and resuscitation in M. tuberculosis. In other work, her group characterised the aerobic respiratory chain in mycobacteria which has emerged as an important target for TB drug discovery. Her group characterised the pathway for the biosynthesis of molybdenum cofactor and demonstrated a role for this cofactor in persistence, and also made important contributions in understanding the biosynthesis, transport and function of vitamin B12 and enzymes that depend on this cofactor in M. tuberculosis. Recently, Mizrahi has pioneered the use of target-based whole-cell screening for identifying small molecule inhibitors that act prioritised targets or pathways in M. tuberculosis and is applying this approach in international TB drug discovery programs.

Recognitions: membership in national and other academies, Prizes, Awards, etc.

Mizrahi is a Senior International Research Scholar of the HHMI. As an internationally recognised leader in her field, Mizrahi holds an “A1” rating from the National Research Foundation. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, and Royal Society of South Africa, an Associate Fellow of The World Academy of Science, and a Member of the Academy of Science of South Africa. Her major awards include the 2013 Christophe Mérieux Prize from the Mérieux Foundation and Institut de France, the Order of the Mapungubwe from the State President of South Africa (Silver, 2007), the 2006 Gold Medal of the SA Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the 2000 Unesco-L’Oréal For Women in Science Award (Africa & Middle East).

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Francisca Mutapi, Dr

Fellow of AAS since 2015
Helminth biology
Born in 1969

Dr Mutapi holds a readership in global health at the University of Edinburgh, UK. She conducts basic scientific research integrating immunology, molecular biology, parasite biology, quantitative studies and fieldwork to build an evidence base used to inform stakeholders, governments and funding organisations on global helminth control policy formulation and implementation.

Dr Mutapi‘s scientific accomplishments include both fundamental science advancements and translational outputs. To date she has published over 70 peer-reviewed manuscripts including influential papers on schistosome immunology and epidemiology. Her work has influenced research prioritization, health policy and practice. In terms of health impact, her work has led to policy revision through the World Health Organization making millions of pre-school children eligible for schistosome treatment. She has also contributed to the implementation of Zimbabwe’s national helminth control programme, targeting close to 5 million school children annually and currently heads a team of independent scientists monitoring and evaluating the programme. She has an excellent record in postgraduate supervision having supervised postgraduate training for more than 20 young scientists from Africa and Europe. Through membership of the African Science Leadership Program and various science strategic/research boards, she is helping shape the research agenda of science in Africa.

Recognitions: membership in national and other academies, prizes:

2011-currently: Elected Member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland

2015-currently: Fellow, African Science Leadership Program

1993-1997: Beit Scholarship to study for a PhD at the University of Oxford

1991: University of Zimbabwe Prize for best BSc Hons Science graduate

In addition to these she has also won the following competitive fellowships:

2005-2010: Research Fellowship, Research Councils UK Fellowship (RCUK)

2002-2005: Medical Research Council (UK) Training Fellowship

1999-2001: Junior Research Fellowship, Linacre College, University of Oxford

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