The Durban University of Technology (DUT) has received funding of R1 012 500 to conduct research on SARS-CoV-2 (a virus which causes COVID-19) infection in HIV-positive patients with or without antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the sub-Saharan Africa.
This is a great achievement for DUT as it is the first University of Technology (UoT) to receive a European Developing Clinical Trial Partnership (EDCTP) grant. DUT has collaborated with local and global universities in this project, namely: Walter Sisulu University in South Africa, Medical University of Graz in Austria, University of Oslo in Norway and the Lagos State University College of Medicine in Nigeria.
According to Professor Keolebogile Motaung, Director of Technology, Transfer and Innovation at DUT, the university has been given an opportunity to study HIV-infected patients with or without ART and HIV negative controls co-infected with SARS-CoV-2.
“This study aims at assessment of the severity of SARSCoV-2 infection, and the effects of comorbidities. This project aims to establish networks for African clinicians and researchers supporting capacity building (North-South and South-South networking), while incorporating gender and cultural dimensions. Key impacts include empowerment of emerging or established African scientists and clinicians operating in resource-scarce environments, facilitating access to research, opportunities and early prediction of morbidities in the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Prof Motaung.
She further explained that the funding is going to be used for research purposes, where she will explore the native flora of South Africa as a source of novel biomarkers for treating COVID-19 and to evaluate purified natural products from these plant species for the treatment of COVID-19 and other related conditions.
“While the short-term motivation of most current studies is to respond to the urgent need for a solution against COVID-19, the long-term goal is to develop vaccines, supplement and drugs from plant crude extracts that will treat COVID-19,” said Prof Motaung.
Speaking about how this study will benefit DUT, Prof Motaung said it will provide empowerment of knowledge for African scientists, aiding them to diagnose and treat early the morbidities, which accompany poverty related diseases (PRDs).
Other benefits include:
- Increased visibility of African research via publications and giving talks at international conferences.
- Ensuring that females are equally represented in training and healthcare delivery.
- Raising the level of health care delivery in areas where PRDs are common.
- Cost-effective transmission of information related to COVID-19 to scientists, families and relatives for health promotion and reduction of the disease burden.
- Improvements in quality of life of patients and families.
- Reduction in social burden of PRDs.
- Reduction in financial burden to patients and families.
- Envisaged to file a patent that will able to generate income.
- There will PhD student that will graduate from the project.
Prof Motaung further explained that obtaining this funding was not easy especially since DUT does not have a medical school.
“But I persevered. I knew that we have the Faculty of Health Sciences. The grant was very competitive. This was a rapid call grant meaning that you don’t have enough time. Usually closing dates for rapid calls are soon. Another challenge was establishing European partners within a short period of time. Then you end up not sleeping. Writing a winning grant,” said Prof Motaung.
She said she was ecstatic when she was notified that DUT will receive the grant, confirming that her hard work finally paid off. She is also proud that DUT will be leading the UoT’s in this arena.
Pictured: Prof Keolebogile Motaung