University of Cape Town

The Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) was established in 2004 as a trans-faculty postgraduate research institute within the University of Cape Town (UCT). The Institute’s Vision is to be “an international centre of excellence where world-class scientists work together to tackle diseases of major importance in Africa”. Research is focussed upon infectious diseases (in particular HIV/AIDS and TB), non-communicable diseases such as cancers, genetic medicine and molecular medicine, including drug discovery.

The Institute contains 20 highly active research groups, including The South African TB Vaccine Initiative, The Desmond Tutu HIV Centre (DHTC) and the Wellcome Trust-funded Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa (CIDRI-Africa).

Research is funded by a wide range of organisations including the NIH, the South African Medical Research Council, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, EDCTP, and various industrial partners.

UCT AMBITION Team

Prof. Graeme Meintjes: UCT Principal Investigator

I am a Professor of Medicine, an Infectious Diseases Physician, Wellcome Fellow and clinician scientist based at the University of Cape Town in the IDM. My research focuses on improving understanding of pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of the clinical complications that affect patients with advanced HIV disease, including HIV-associated tuberculosis, immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) and cryptococcal meningitis. I have been lead or principal investigator on numerous clinical trials addressing treatment strategies for these conditions.

My work also focusses on improving understanding of the immunopathogenesis of HIV-associated TB, specifically the immunological reactions underlying TB-IRIS and the immune phenotype associated with mortality in patients with HIV and disseminated TB.

Dr. Kyla Comins: Sub-Investigator

I initially started out working in a secondary hospital, where I eventually transitioned to the intensive care unit. I began working in a primary care clinic in Cape Town in 2014, exclusively treating patients suffering from HIV and other opportunistic infections. During this time I also completed my Diploma in HIV Management. Prior to joining AMBITION-cm, I had been involved in clinical trials for four years, with a specific focus on drug-resistant tuberculosis. I am particularly interested in integrating clinical trials into public health systems to provide the best possible all-round care for patients participating in clinical research, as well as a way to improve research uptake by patients and clinicians alike. I am currently pursuing a distance-learning MSc in Infectious Diseases from LSHTM.

Dr. Charlotte Schutz: Sub-Investigator

I am a medical doctor, and have worked in clinical research since 2009. I am interested in HIV co-infections and opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis and cryptococcal meningitis. I hold an MPH in Clinical Research from UCT and I am currently working on a PhD project focusing on the determinants of mortality in HIV-infected patients with tuberculosis. I also acted as a Medical Officer for the COAT trial at the Cape Town site.

I assist with preparations of regulatory submissions and support the clinical team with all aspects of the AMBITION study.

Dr. Achita Singh: Study Doctor

I graduated from the MBChB programme at UCT in 2013. I am passionate about high quality, evidence-informed emergency medicine, and following my graduation I completed a postgraduate diploma in primary emergency care. I then gained further experience as a clinician in emergency units in both the public and private sectors.

Following this, I joined UCT’s Family Medicine Department, where I taught family medicine and primary healthcare to medical students. Inspired by some of my former colleagues, I then worked on a large cardiology and HIV study. My research interests include HIV, fibrosis, opportunistic infections and the evaluation of new or repurposed drug therapies. Clinically, I am interested in internal medicine and radiology. A longer-term goal is to pursue a Masters in Tropical Medicine and International Health.

I join the AMBITION team as a Research Medical Officer at the Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha sites here in Cape Town. I enjoyed meeting colleagues from the different AMBITION sites at the recent AIDS-Mycoses Workshop, and I am excited to see the results of our work in due course.

Dr. Lee-Ann Davids: Medical Officer

I graduated with an MBBS in 2007 from the University of KwaZulu Natal, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine. I also have postgraduate diplomas in Obstetrics (2010) and in HIV Medicine (2013) from the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA). I completed my Masters in Public Health from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in 2017, and for my research project I investigated factors that influence adherence to ART amongst adolescents.

I have 7 years of post community service experience in infectious diseases, primarily in HIV and TB medicine in a primary health care setting.
With the mentorship of Dr. Edwin Niwagyira and Dr. Conrad Muzoora, I hope to gain further experience in this field and develop my career in infectious disease research and clinical trials.

I also have experience in both drug-susceptible and drug-resistant tuberculosis trials. I served as a District Manager for an NGO in Cape Town on the APACE programme, supporting 19 health care facilities to reach their targets as they pertain to the UNAIDS 90/90/90 treatment goals.

I currently have the privilege of working alongside Prof. Graeme Meintjes and the UCT team as a Trial Doctor on AMBITION in Cape Town. I am truly grateful for this opportunity.

Dr. Tom Crede: Sub-Investigator

I completed my undergraduate training at the University of Cape Town in 1994, and after a brief stint in the UK, returned to South Africa in 1998. I subsequently completed my FCP at Groote Schuur Hospital in 2004, and went on to work as a consultant at the old GF Jooste Hospital. I spent the next 7 years at Groote Schuur Hospital in charge of the Acute Medical Emergency Unit, before moving to run the Department of Medicine at Mitchells Plain Hospital, which is where I am based now. My main medical interests relate to acute general medicine, as well as infectious disease management in our resource constraint environment.

Dr. Debbie Maughan: Sub-Investigator

I completed my undergraduate training at the University of Cape Town in 2005, and my FCP training at Groote Schuur Hospital with the University of Cape Town in 2014. I received the Discovery Foundation Academic Award in 2015 which allowed me to undertake full-time research for one year within the Division of Hepatology at Groote Schuur Hospital in the area of Efavirenz Drug Induced Liver Injury. I began working as a specialist in General Medicine at Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital in January 2016, where I am still based. My interests include HIV, infectious diseases and hepatology, and I am passionate about providing excellent care within the public sector in South Africa.

Tania Morar: Study Pharmacist

I hold a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from Rhodes University and have worked in the UK and South Africa. I have experience in a number of aspects of Pharmacy, having worked in the Public Sector, Import and Distribution, Medical Aid Industry and the Retail Environment. I have a keen interest in Infectious Diseases, and worked here at UCT on the eKhayavac, HVTN702 and Predict TB studies before joining the AMBITION team.

Mkhanyiseli Kenneth  ‘MK’  Mpali: Clinical Research Worker

I began my career as a Clinical Research Worker in 2001, specifically as an HIV/AIDS counsellor, and have worked with numerous organisations and physicians. I first became involved in research in 2004, and have been employed at UCT since 2013, within both the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine and the new  Wellcome Centre of Infectious Diseases Research in Africa (CIDRI-Africa) group. Before joining the AMBITION team, I was involved in the KDH TB study, and the MAIT study. My duties include recruiting participants, taking informed consent, counselling, and assisting the study team with various tasks.

Siphokazi Hlungulu: Research Nurse

I hold a Diploma in Nursing, and am a dedicated Research Nurse on the AMBITION study. From 2009 – 2016 I worked for the City of Cape Town as an Enrolment Nurse, where I assisted with all aspects of enrolment of TB patients receiving anti-retroviral treatment. In 2016 I began working at TB/HIV Association on programme focussing on Medical Male Circumcision. I then worked on two studies with Dr. Sean Wessarman: A Safety Pharmacokinetic and Resistance to Bedaqualine in XDR TB and HIV (observational study) and Safety Pharmacokinetic and Resistance to Bedaqualine in XDR TB and HIV (an intensive PK sampling sub-study).

Henriette Kyepa: Research Pharmacist

I obtained my Bachelor of Pharmacy degree in 2008, and afterwards proceeded to work in various sectors of pharmacy for the next nine years. Since completing a Masters in Public Health in 2017, I have been actively involved in clinical research. I have worked on several trials at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town that have focused primarily on the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis and HIV infection.

I joined the AMBITION team as a Research Pharmacist in 2019. My role includes the management of study products, in addition to overseeing study-related activities. I have a keen interest in qualitative research, especially research related to patient adherence.

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