Researcher Profiles

Professor Shabir Madhi

Professor Shabir Madhi

Executive Director: National Institute for Communicable Diseases - Division of NHLS

Professor of Vaccinology, University of Witwatersrand

Director: MRC Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit

DST/NRF Research Chair: Vaccine Preventable Diseases

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Dr. Clare Cutland is the Deputy Director at the Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit (RMPRU) based at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (CHBAH), Soweto, South Africa. She qualified with a Bachelor in Science (B.Sc.) in 1993 and Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBCh) in 1997 from The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, South Africa. In July 2000, after completing a Diploma in Child Health (DCH), she joined RMPRU as a full time research doctor, under Professor Shabir Madhi. She has been a sub-investigator/ senior doctor on numerous phase I, II and III paediatric vaccine trials and principal investigator on a phase II paediatric measles vaccine trial and a phase III quadrivalent influenza vaccine trial in children.


She was lead trialist on a grant-funded trial to assess the efficacy of chlorhexidine maternal vaginal and newborn skin wipes on reducing neonatal sepsis and vertical transmission of significant pathogens, especially Streptococcus agalactiae from mother to infant (2004-2008). The results of this trial were published in The Lancet in 2009. During this period, she also conducted surveillance of pathogens associated with-, and the impact of maternal HIV infection on sepsis in young infants admitted to CHBAH. She is completing a PhD on aetiology and prevention of sepsis in young infants.


The increasing proportion of under-5 year deaths which occur during the neonatal period has encouraged investigation of immunization of pregnant women to protect their newborns.


Dr. Cutland was the clinical lead for the grant-funded maternal seasonal influenza immunization studies which were conducted between 2010 and 2013, including being principal investigator on one of the five trials. She continues to lead large grant-funded studies on sepsis in young infants and maternal immunization.    


Her current responsibilities include planning, implementation and management of clinical vaccine and epidemiological trials, mainly in paediatric and maternal participants, and preparation of research outputs from completed trials.

She has presented at local and international courses and conferences, and is contributing the World Health Organization and Brighton Collaboration activities on maternal immunization.   


She is author or co-author on 40 peer-reviewed journal articles. She has been awarded the Wits Faculty of Health Science Prize for research (best article) in 2009 and has been recognized as an emerging researcher by Wits.




Dr Clare Cutland

Dr Clare Cutland

MBBCH - University of Witwatersrand

BSC - University of Witwatersrand

PHD - University of Witwatersrand

DCH - University of Witwatersrand

Senior Researcher : Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Deputy Director: MRC Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit

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Professor Shabir Madhi is the Executive Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Professor of Vaccinology and Director of the MRC Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit at Wits. He also holds the position of DST/NRF SARChI Chair in Vaccine Preventable Diseases. Professor Madhi completed his undergraduate and postgraduate training at Wits, qualified as a paediatrician in 1996 and obtained his PhD in 2003.

He has been involved in research on vaccine-preventable diseases and on infections in HIV-infected children for 18 years. His research demonstrating a reduction in childhood morbidity with the use of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) and rotavirus vaccines prompted South Africa to be the first in Africa to introduce these vaccines in national immunisation programs. These studies also contributed to the WHO recommending the introduction of these life-saving vaccines into public immunisation programs globally. More recently, his research focus has expanded to the prevention of infectious diseases during early infancy, including studies on the role of maternal immunization in preventing sepsis in young infants.

Professor Madhi has contributed to over 250 peer reviewed articles in international journals, including six in the highest ranked medical journal globally, the New England Journal of Medicine. He received a number of awards for his research, including the ESPID Young Investigators Award (2006, the National Research Foundation President’s Award for Transformation of the Science Cohort (2009), the T W Kambule NRF-NSTF Award: Senior Black Researcher over the past five to 10 years (2010), Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research at University of the Witwatersrand (2010) and the South African Medical Research Council: Life Time Achievement Award (Platinum Medal) (2013).

He was also recognised as an A-rated Scientist (internationally recognised) by the National Research Foundation in 2011 and was listed as being among “100 World Class South Africans” by City Press in 2013. He is the immediate past-president of the World Society of Infectious Diseases and has served as a consultant/advisor to the World Health Organisation (in the fields of vaccinology and pneumonia) and to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (on pneumonia and is member of its Scientific Advisory Committee).

Dr Marta C Nunes is a senior scientist at the Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit (RMPRU) based at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Soweto, South Africa. Marta developed her PhD thesis work in Prof S Goldman's laboratory at the Department of Neurology & Neuroscience, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, USA and obtained her PhD from the University of Lisbon, Medical College, Lisbon, Portugal in January 2004. During her PhD training she isolated and described a very unique multipotential neural progenitor cell population from the subcortical white matter of the adult human brain. These cells were known to give rise to oligodendrocytes, but Dr Nunes' work suggested that multiple fates can be elicited under defined culture conditions and after transplantation into animal models At the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, during her EMBO and Human Frontiers post-doctoral fellowships Marta was involved in several projects dedicated to identify new malaria vaccine candidates for pregnancy malaria. Her main focus of research was the mechanisms of antigenic variation and switching of expression of variant surface molecules in Plasmodium Falciparum through which the malaria parasite is able to evade immune pressure and infect the placenta.


Marta joined RMPRU in March 2009 and her research has been focused on reducing under-5 childhood morbidity and mortality from leading causes of death. This included evaluation of pneumococcal conjugate-vaccines in a setting with high HIV-burden, clinical and molecular epidemiology of respiratory viral associated-pneumonia and immunization of pregnant women. The work on pneumococcal disease included ecological studies on the impact of antiretroviral therapy on the burden of invasive pneumococcal disease in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected adults and children. Furthermore, she studied the dynamics of pneumococcal transmission between young infants and their mothers and the impact of the vaccination schedule implemented in South Africa on pneumococcal carriage.


A further focus of her research has been on the interaction of different putative pathogens on respiratory disease in children and the different manifestations in health and disease to these infections. This included the characterization of different respiratory viruses associated with hospitalizations in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected children either in the presence or not of bacterial infections. Furthermore, in an ongoing prospective study she is investigating the relevance of Bordetella pertussis, Influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus infections in hospitalized young infants and the immune responses to these natural infections.


To approach the problem of infant morbidity related to infections from a different angle she is exploring the potential of intervening through vaccination of pregnant women to protect the women and their babies against infections. This also includes the evaluation of the impact of preventing respiratory illnesses in pregnant women on reducing adverse birth outcomes such as premature birth, stillbirths and low-birth weight. Under her supervision RMPRU has conducted 2 large randomized-placebo-control trials of maternal influenza vaccination (2011-2012) and a third trial (2013) in HIV-infected women using different vaccination regimens.

Dr Marta Nunes

Dr Marta Nunes

Degree in Biochemistry - Coimbra University

PHD - Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Senior Scientist : Vaccine Preventable Diseases

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VPD/RMPRU

11th Floor Central West Wing

Nurses Residence

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital

Diepkloof, Soweto

Phone: 011 983 4283

Fax: 086 646 4208

E-mail: siwei@rmpru.co.za

Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman is a senior scientist at the Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit (RMPRU) based at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Soweto, South Africa. Jeff did his PhD work in the laboratory of Prof David Raulet at the University of California, studying target recognition by natural killer cells and the development of their repertoire.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the USA National Institutes of Health with Dr. Ronald Germain, Jeff studied the low level recognition of self MHC class I by naive T cells. Jeff and his colleagues established that this previously observed low level of phosphorylation on the CD3 chain in naive T cells did in fact result primarily from recognition of cognate MHC and that this signalling is required to maintain normal antigen sensitivity of naive T cells. During his postdoctoral fellowship at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Laboratory in Kilifi, Kenya, Jeff developed an ELISPOT-based technique to directly measure antigen-specific memory B cells in blood samples, utilizing it to document that some exposures to malaria do not result in the establishment of stable populations of circulating antigen-specific memory B cells, and participated in surveillance studies of the immunity of mother of children who presented at Kilifi District Hospital with neonatal tetanus. Most mothers were insufficiently immunized, a conclusion that led to an immunization campaigns by the Kenya Ministry of Health. Since that time, he has participated in studies of the variability of T cell receptor signalling and studies of candidate malaria vaccine antigens.

As a group leader at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, in Cape Town, Jeff focused upon neutralising antibody responses to HIV-1 and upon the early phylogeny of HIV-1. Jeff also taught immunology at the University of Cape Town.

Jeff joined RMPRU in January 2017 as a senior immunologist. He is identifying and implementing new avenues of immunology research and supervising immunology-related laboratory activities, including the laboratory work for a Gates Foundation-funded trial to determine if 2 doses of penumococcal conjugate vaccine induce immunity similar to that of the current three-dose schedule. This vaccine is the expensive vaccines in the Extended Programme for Immunisation (EPI) schedule of most countries; removal of one dose per child would free substantial funds for other important public health uses in South Africa and elsewhere. In collaboration with scientists at the National Institutes of Communicable Disease (NICD), he is developing new projects to study neutralising antibody responses to cytomegalovirus (CMV), and how they can be used to prevent congenital CMV infection, which is a leading cause of sensorineural deafness and other neurological sequelae. It is emerging from work at the RMPRU that CMV may be an important cause of foetal death. In collaboration with scientists at the NICD and the South Africa Medical Research Council, he is working on new surveillance projects for infectious disease in infants across South Africa. Last, in collaboration with the Perinatal Health Research Unit, he is developing projects to understand if children born to mothers living with HIV-1 have shorter-lived antibody responses to childhood vaccines.

Dr Jeffrey Dorfman

Dr Jeffrey Dorfman

AB -Harvard University

PHD - University of California

Postdoctoral Fellow - USA National Institutes of Health

Postdoctoral Fellow - University of Oxford & KEMRI-Wellcome Trust, Kilifi, Kenya

Senior Scientist & Lead Immunologist : Vaccine Preventable Diseases

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Dr Michelle Groome is a senior researcher at the Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit (RMPRU) based at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Soweto, South Africa. She obtained her medical degree (MBBCh) at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1997 (cum laude) followed by a Diploma in Child Health from the College of Medicine, South Africa. She obtained a Master of Science in Medicine in the field of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in 2010 and her PhD in public health in 2016, both from the University of the Witwatersrand. She has been involved in clinical research for the past 12 years with a focus on infectious diseases, especially vaccine preventable diseases in children. Her main area of interest includes the epidemiology and prevention of enteric (diarrhoeal) infections in children, especially rotavirus and norovirus.


She has extensive experience in the conduct of clinical vaccine trials in the unit including trials assessing the immunogenicity and safety of Rotarix, immunogenicity of a pentavalent vaccine as well as a DTaP-IPV-HB-PRP~T combined vaccine in infants, and clinical trials assessing vaccines against pneumococcus, measles, influenza and Group B Streptococcus, in both HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected children. She has also been involved in several observational, epidemiological studies, including surveillance programmes and projects assessing vaccine impact, effectiveness and safety in South Africa. She coordinated two AVI-funded multi-centre case-control studies evaluating the effectiveness of pneumococcal conjugate and rotavirus vaccines post introduction into the South African immunisation programme. She was a sub-investigator on a sentinel surveillance programme for severe acute respiratory infection, in collaboration with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa.


Currently she is a principal investigator on a rotavirus sentinel surveillance programme as well as an intussusception surveillance project which has been initiated across major hospitals in South Africa to evaluate safety of the oral rotavirus vaccine. She is the principal investigator on a Phase I/II study evaluating the safety and immunogenicity of a parenteral subunit rotavirus vaccine. She has experience in protocol development, study co-ordination and conduct, data management and statistical analysis, and forms part of the senior management of the RMPRU.


Dr Groome was recently awarded a Career Development Award (K43) from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health. She has over 40 publications in local and international peer-reviewed journals and has presented at a number of local and international conferences, including being an invited speaker at both the African Rotavirus Symposium and International Rotavirus Symposium in 2014 and 2016.  She won an award for the best poster presentation at the World Congress of the World Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases (WSPID) in 2013, best oral presentation at the Wits Research Day in 2014 and the University of the Witwatersrand, Faculty of Health Sciences Prestigious Postgraduate Degree Award (PhD) for 2016. She was selected to attend the Advanced Course in Vaccinology (ADVAC) in 2013. She is a member of the SA Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases and the Golden Key International Honour Society.








Dr Michelle Groome

Dr Michelle Groome

MBBCH - University of Witwatersrand

Diploma : Child Health - College of Medicine (S.A)

MSC - University of Witwatersrand

PHD - University of Witwatersrand

Senior Researcher : Vaccine Preventable Diseases

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K43 Award