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INVITED SPEAKERS

Ed Rybicki

Ed Rybicki

Professor Ed Rybicki has worked at the University of Cape Town on virus-related biotechnology since the late 1990s, and the Biopharming Research Unit that he directs now has possibly the biggest biomedical / vaccine-related patent portfolio in South Africa.

The group has done extensive research on the use of small single-stranded DNA plant and animal viruses as potential expression vectors for the production of recombinant proteins, and he will share latest developments in this work.

Don Cowan

Don Cowan

Don Cowan is the Director of both the University of Pretoria Institutional Research Theme in Genomics and his research group, the Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics. His research activities encompass several disparate fields, but many linked by the theme of 'environmental extremes'.

His collaborators include researchers in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Zambia, Argentina, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, and the US. Since his PhD studies, he has retained an interest in the ecology and enzymology of extreme thermophiles, organisms living at the temperature of boiling water. For the past decade he has also worked at the lower end of the biotic temperature scale with New Zealand and American scientists, studying the microbiology of the Dry Valleys of Eastern Antarctica.

He also has research interests in other sectors of microbial ecology including the haloalkaline African Rift Valley lakes, the prokaryotic and phage communities in high salt environments and the structure and function of hot desert communities.

Don has published over 300 research papers, review articles and book chapters, and sit on the Editorial Boards of 10 international journals. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, a Member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He has an NRF A and has received the University of the Western Cape Vice-Rector’s Award for Research Excellence in 2008, the South African Society for Microbiology Silver Medal in 2009 and the Chancellors award for Research Excellence at the University of Pretoria in 2015.

Grant Theron

Grant Theron

Grant Theron is the Head of the Clinical Mycobacteriology and Epidemiology (CLIME) group (20 members), in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Stellenbosch University, in Cape Town, South Africa.

He is also a member of the DST/NRF Centre for Excellence in Tuberculosis Research and the South Africa Medical Research Council Centre for Tuberculosis Research, both of which are embedded in Stellenbosch University. His primary research area is tuberculosis (TB), which is the single biggest infectious cause of death in the work.

Grant’s research interests include: (1) the design and field evaluation of improved diagnostics for TB and drug resistance, (2) the transmission of TB, including drug-resistant TB, and (3) the microbiome in the context of TB.

Grant holds funding from the Wellcome Trust, the British Royal Society, and the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership. In a relatively short period, he has published >60 papers in international peer-reviewed journals, and have registered one patent. This work has attracted international recognition and awards, including the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Young Investigator Prize, the Meiring Naudé Medal from the Royal Society of South Africa, and the NSTF-BHP Billiton T.W. Kambule Emerging Researcher Award. Grant holds a P-rating from the South African National Research Foundation (the highest rating available to researchers <35 years old).

Ramon Rossello-Mora

Ramon Rossello-Mora

Ramon Rossello-Mora is a scientific researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Mallorca (Spain), a combined institute of the Spanish Council (CSIC) and the University of the Balearic Islands. He leads the Marine Microbiology Group (MMG) at the IMEDEA. This group mainly focuses on the diversity and systematics of environmental samples such as extreme saline habitats, anaerobic marine sediments and jellyfish microbiomes.

He is the author of over 140 publications in international journals and has an H factor of 42. His PhD thesis, obtained from the University of the Balearic Islands in 1992, dealt with the taxonomy and naphthalene degradation capabilities of Pseudomonas stutzteri. Afterwards he was a postdoctoral fellow at several institutes including the Technical University of Berlin (1992), Technical University of Munich (1993 - 1995), IMEDEA (1995 - 1997) and the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen (1997 - 1999).

He was a Professor at the University of the Balearic Islands during period 2000 - 2001. He accepted a post as Researcher at the Spanish Council CSIC in 2001, where he is currently the leader of the laboratory of Marine Microbiology of the IMEDEA.

Ramon is executive editor of the journal Systematic and Applied Microbiology and was a member of the Judicial Commission of the ICSP for a period of 9 years (2005 - 2014). He was again re-elected to the commission in 2017. He is also member of the European Academy of Microbiology since 2016 and received the Bergey’s Award for his contributions towards bacterial taxonomy in 2017.

Professor Brenda Wingfield

Professor Brenda Wingfield

Professor Brenda Wingfield is a Professor in Genetics at the University of Pretoria and holds the SARCHI chair in Fungal Genomics. She was been the Deputy Dean and for short period Acting Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria between 2009-2016.

She is vice president of ASSAf, convener of the NRF rating specialist committee for Microbiology and Plant Pathology, Secretary General of the International Society of Plant Pathology, the past Chairman of the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) and a project leader in the Department of Science and Technology (DST)/National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology.

She was born in Zambia, completed her schooling in Zimbabwe and calls South Africa her home. She holds a number of degrees from Universities in South Africa and the USA. She has worked and studied in all but one of the top five South African Universities. She and her husband moved to the University of Pretoria twenty years ago where she and a number of academics started the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) under the directorship of her husband Prof Mike Wingfield.

Professor Wingfield is internationally recognised as a world leader in her field. She is passionate about fungal pathogens, particularly about those which cause tree disease. She entered the field of molecular mycology in the early days of DNA sequencing and was instrumental in developing the first DNA based phylogenies for a number of important tree pathogens. This research has been an important basis for the molecular diagnostics of these pathogens. She followed this research by undertaking a series of molecular population genetics studies where she and colleagues developed the molecular tools to study the population diversity, origins and movements of many tree pathogens around the world. She has most recently undertaken a number of projects focused on the comparative genomics of a number of important tree pathogens.

She spearheaded the project to sequence the first fungal genome in Africa. The genome of the pine pathogen Fusarium circinatum was sequenced and assembled in Pretoria in 2009. She then led a genome jamboree focused on the annotation of all 15 000 putative genes in this genome, again this was done at the University of Pretoria by students and staff. The impact of this initiative can be seen in the large number of genome projects that are currently been undertaken by researchers on fungi and other organisms at the University of Pretoria. Her own research group have now sequenced more than 50 fungal genomes and used these to answer some key questions about tree pathogens.

Professor Mark J Bailey

Professor Mark J Bailey

Mark Bailey is the Executive Director of CEH (2011- ) responsible for ca. 470 staff, and 150 post-graduate students and research fellows. He is internationally recognised for his pioneering research and leadership in the field of molecular microbial ecology and molecular biology. He has served on a number of national and international review panels, advisory committees and institute visiting groups, including NERC and BBSRC boards. He is visiting professor at three UK Universities (2000- ) and was elected Fellow of the RSB (2009- ).

His personal research focusses on bacterial evolution, horizontal gene transfer and the identification of ecologically significant genes involved in the survival of bacteria in the environment, specifically the adaptive regulation of bacterial genes in soils. Knowledge essential for defining the role of microbes in biogeochemical (nutrient) cycling, soil health and plant protection.

From his pioneering work on the assessment of functional diversity, genetics and tools for the detection of single cells and horizontal gene transfer he has published 150 papers (highest citation >1097), 50 review and book chapters, RGHi= ca.50.

In 1993 Mark led the first UK release of a GM bacterium providing unique data on the rate of transfer of genetic material between plant associated bacteria. He also developed a novel approach using stable isotopes to label RNA for the detection of metabolically active bacteria in complex communities for which he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2002. He served as a member of Defra Advisory Committee for Releases into the Environment (ACRE) (99-09) during the first GM-plant farm scale evaluations, was Chair of the Environmental Change Network (06-15) and a trustee of the National Biodiversity Network (07-13) as well as Rothamsted Research (07-15).

Before his appointment as CEH Director Biodiversity (03-11) he was the Director of the Institute of Virology and Environmental Microbiology, Oxford. He serves or has served as editor (JMM 01- ; AEM, 03-08) or editorial board member for a number of leading scientific journals (EM, Mbio). In 2007 he was one or the the founding editors in chief of The ISME-J, now the foremost international research journal in microbial ecology. He has mentored many researchers and students (22 PhDs) and serves the wider community in his role as UK-Ambassador (03-09) and executive board member and treasurer/ secretary (13- ) for the International Society for Microbial Ecology.

Professor Colin Murrell

Professor Colin Murrell

Colin Murrell is Professor in Environmental Microbiology at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK and Director of the Earth and Life Systems Alliance (www.elsa.ac.uk) on the Norwich Research Park. His research encompasses physiology, biochemistry, molecular genetics, biotechnology and molecular ecology of bacteria that grow on methane and other C1 compounds, and the bacterial metabolism of the climate active gas isoprene for which he was recently awarded an ERC Advanced grant.

His research over the past 35 years has resulted in ~300 publications and six edited books. Colin is President of the International Society for Microbial Ecology, a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation and Member of the European Academy of Microbiology. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Environmental Microbiology and The ISME Journal, and has Chaired Gordon Research Conferences on C1 Metabolism and Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Dr. Nicole Webster

Dr. Nicole Webster

Nicole obtained her PhD in 2001 by researching the microbial ecology of Great Barrier Reef sponges. Her postdoctoral research was undertaken between 2001-05 at the University of Canterbury / Gateway Antarctica where Nicole investigated the utility of microbial symbionts as biomarkers for environmental stress in the Antarctic marine ecosystem and explored the role of microorganisms as inducers for settlement and metamorphosis of coral reef invertebrates.

In 2013 Nicole was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship to commence research into revealing the structure, evolution and environmental sensitivity of symbioses in basal metazoa. This project involves assessing the impact of environmental stress on model invertebrate symbioses and determining the role of bacterial, archaeal and viral symbionts in the ability of reef invertebrates to adapt to a changing climate. Nicole is currently a principal research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science where she undertakes research into how microorganisms contribute to reef ecosystem health.

In 2017, Nicole commenced a joint appointment as Principal Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics at the University of Queensland. In both positions Nicole uses experimental and field based ecological research to explore multiple facets of coral reef microbiology and symbiosis.

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