Two NWU researchers honoured by the NRF
The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor recently announced the recipients for top honours in the science and research field at the annual National Research Foundation (NRF) Awards. Among the award recipients, who are top researchers in South Africa and rated by the NRF, were two researchers from the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus.
The awards honour both A-rated researchers, those who have been recognised by their peers as leading international scholars, as well as P-rated researchers, young scientists who are considered to be future leaders in their fields based on their published doctoral work and/or research outputs.
Prof Richard Haynes, recipient of an A2-rating, moved to North-West University in 2011 where he is now Research Professor at the Centre of Excellence for Pharmaceutical Sciences. He is developing new strategies using both repurposed and new drugs for treatment of cancer, tuberculosis and malaria. This work involves collaboration with groups from other institutions in South Africa, Italy, Germany, Singapore, the US and Australia. The tuberculosis and malaria activities have been formalised with the award of the Medical Research Council Flagship Project to NWU.
His research interests include mechanism-based development of new drugs for malaria, chemotherapy of other parasitic diseases, and mechanism-based cytotoxic agents for cancer chemotherapy. He is also engaged in mechanism-based synthesis of anti-infective agents designed to synergise effects of known redox active agents for tuberculosis and related Mycobacterium infections. His work on elucidating the mechanism of action of peroxidic antimalarials has attracted attention, as an understanding of how these drugs work greatly enhances their potential for treatment of parasitic and viral infections, as well as cancer.
Prof Haynes has published 149 papers in the primary scientific literature, has authored/co-authored seven book chapters and authored numerous consulting reports for the WHO, and other government and private agencies. He has also obtained 38 world/individual patents.
Dr Christo Venter received a P rating from the NRF. His research has contributed substantially to the field of gamma-ray astrophysics, particularly gamma-ray pulsars, pulsar wind nebulae, and globular clusters. He worked with the South African contingent on the High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS), a world class gamma-ray telescope situated in Namibia, and was granted affiliated membership to the Fermi Large Area Telescope Collaboration.
Dr Venter has co-authored 11 peer-reviewed papers, and co-authored 120 HESS papers and 24 Fermi papers in various high-impact journals including Science, Nature, and The Astrophysical Journal. In addition to presenting his work at a number of international conferences and giving four plenary talks, he has also acted as co-chair of the Scientific Organising Committee and chair of the Local Organising Committee for the Cosmic Kaleidoscope conference in 2012. He has performed peer review for journals such as The Astrophysical Journal and has supervised four MSc students and one PhD student.
The NRF Awards celebrate leading researchers in their respective fields based on peer evaluation and according to international best practice. According to Pandor, the work of these researchers is assessed for, among other things, their contribution to the field of study focusing on quality and impact. “The awards are also aimed at inspiring and encouraging the continued culture of advancing South Africa’s knowledge economy and technological innovativeness by rewarding those that make use of research for the advancement and betterment of humanity.”
Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, CEO of the NRF said, “With the success of research comes the acknowledgement of those who have committed their careers to pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge. The NRF Awards celebrate the work of the country’s rated researchers by highlighting their achievements. For the NRF, our work will continue to support the country’s research community, enabling established scientists to continue their valuable contributions to South Africa’s knowledge economy, as well as providing the means for our next generation researchers and emerging researchers to continue pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.”
The NRF Rating System, which is used to evaluate researchers, is a world-respected benchmark based on peer reviews that assess the quality and impact of the work of researchers seeking an NRF rating. The annual NRF Awards, therefore, highlight and celebrate the work of those who, according to their peers, have distinguished themselves in their fields.