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It is almost a month since Professor Keolebogile Shirley Motaung joined the Durban University of Technology (DUT) to fill in the position of the Director: Technology, Transfer and Innovation.  

Prof Motaung originally from Krugersdorp, a mining city in the West Rand, Gauteng Province is an award-winning Biomedical Scientist who has received a number of accolades due to her continuous efforts in bridging the gap between science and entrepreneurship. She holds a D.Tech Biomedical Technology from Tshwane University of Technology in conjunction with the University of California, USA and obtained her M.Tech in Biomedical Technology at the Tshwane University of Technology. She obtained her BTech in Biomedical Technology at Technikon Witwatersrand while she graduated with her National Diploma in Medical Technology at Technikon Pretoria in 1992.  

Prior to joining DUT, Prof Motaung held the position of the Assistant Dean: Research, Innovation and Engagement in the Faculty of Science at the Tshwane University of Technology for six years.  

Her vision at the DUT is to work closely with the undergraduate, postgraduate students and management team over the next few years to unlock new opportunities.   

“My goal is to positively impact the changing landscape of technology, transfer, innovation and commercialisation through excellent leadership and planning. I plan to transfer scientific research results into tangible economic and social benefits and lastly carry those wonderful products /prototype to the marketplace,” said Prof Motaung.   

As a Professor, research scientist and entrepreneur, Prof Motaung said she trains her postgraduate students not just on how to conduct research, and become scientists, but also on how to become entrepreneurs. She emphasised that by becoming entrepreneurs, students can create jobs for themselves after completing their studies at a time, when jobs are scarce, and unemployment is high.       

Giving background about herself, Prof Motaung said her research and innovation focussed on the role of medicinal plants in tissue engineering of bone and cartilage. In 2016, she established her own company called Global Health Biotech (PTY) Ltd, based on her own scientific exploration into the use of medicinal plants in tissue engineering of bone and cartilage. She partnered with Dr Johanna Mpilu (Traditional Healer Practitioner) and two of her former PhD student’s Dr Mapula Razwinani and Dr Makwese Maepa.  

“Global Health Biotech has developed a natural anti-inflammatory ointment named La- Africa Soother (LAS) from medicinal plants which helps relieve muscle and joint aches, thus offering athletes and sportsmen and women an alternative natural anti-inflammatory ointment.  This is the first product of its kind aimed at preventative care, meaning it is applied ahead before and after physical activity to prevent anticipated muscle aches,” said Prof Motaung.   

She revealed that she has also licensed a technology from Stellenbosch University to develop a second product named Pump Protein Shake (vegan friendly plant-based), which leads to decreased muscle inflammation.  

Through her ground-breaking innovations, Prof Motaung has received a number of prestigious awards, namely:   

  • Shining Light Award for Science and Technology by the Motsepe Foundation on 6 March 2020. 
  • Winner of the Institute People Management (IPM) Business Leader of the Year Award, 2019. 
  • Winner   of the Top Women in Science at the16th annual Standard Bank Top Women Awards by Topco Media and Communications 2019.  
  • Awarded a grant from DTI/THRIP to develop a chronic wound healing dressing using plant extracts and nanoparticles.
  • Winner of the Black Management Forum (BMF) in partnership with Standard Bank Top Inventor of the year award 2018.   
  • Winner of the Distinguished Woman Scientist under the category Research and Innovation, South African Women in Science Awards (SAWISA) 2018.
  • Recipient of the #Inspiring Fifty SA Women 2018.   
  • Winner of the 2017/2018 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) South32 Awards under the category: Innovation Awards: Cooperate Organization. 
  • Most Innovative Woman of the Year in Gauteng in 2018.
  • Winner, Gauteng Legislature’s Community Heroine award of the VITA BASADI Awards in 2017.   
  • Winner of the 2017 FemBioBiz Pitching Den, she received an all-expenses paid trip to Finland to upscale her business.   
  • Winner of the Biotech Fundi Research Award in 2017 and the Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) Biosciences Competition in 2015. 

Prof. Motaung is passionate about capacity building and has trained 16 postgraduates’ students (13 master’s and 3doctoral). She is currently supervising four doctorate students and four master’s students.   

She is also passionate about science and technology entrepreneurship, often assisting the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in redefining international relations for women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research.   

Prof Motaung also stated that she has filed one patent and published three book chapters, 30 peer-reviewed articles and many Conference Proceedings that have been cited over 394 times.   

In terms of contribution to the scientific community, Prof Motaung is currently the Chairperson of the Gauteng Provincial Health Research Committee (PHRC), appointed to serve as a member of the Premier’s Coronavirus disease. Member of the Advisory Board for the Unit Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC), University of Pretoria, Faculty of Health Science. Furthermore, she is the President of the African Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society (ATERMIS), member of the Organisation of Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) and member of African Institute in South Scientific Africa. Prof Motaung served as an Editor for Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, Journal of Orthopedics and a reviewer of PLOS one journal, Medical Technology Journal South Africa, Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and Research and African Journal of Biotechnology.   

She has also been invited as speaker and visiting researcher at several international conferences and universities in Spain (University of Malaga), China, Germany, Iran, Singapore, Japan, USA and India. 

Pictured: TTI Director, Prof Keolebogile Motaung  

Simangele Zuma  

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