CSIR researcher scoops 2013 Biotech Fundi award

CSIR Biosciences PhD student researcher, Jerolen Naidoo, walked away with the 2013 Biotech Fundi Research Award during the Gauteng’s Biotech Excellence Awards held at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria on 7 August 2013. Jerolen won the award for his research on the use of high-content screening and advanced microscopy approaches in order to investigate host-pathogen interactions in context of HIV-1 infection.

The award is aimed at recognising and rewarding a young researcher in either the public or private sector whose cutting-edge research will improve, grow and develop the biotech capacity in Gauteng through the application of his/her knowledge or through product development and service delivery.

CSIR PhD student researcher, Jerolen Naidoo, winner of the 2013 Biotech Fundi Research Award.

“I feel very humbled and grateful that our research here at the Gene Expression and Biophysics group was able to receive this level of recognition. I am also very proud that I was able to successfully represent the CSIR at this event and highlight some of the cutting-edge research that we are undertaking,” says Jerolen.

Under the guidance of his PhD advisor, Dr Musa Mhlanga, and a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory, Dr Samantha Barichievy, Jerolen was able to utilise a cell-based high-content screening approach to identify host microRNAs (miRNAs) capable of enhancing or suppressing HIV-1 infection.

“These miRNAs were identified from our experimental data using a bespoke pattern recognition algorithm designed by our group’s software engineer, Rethabile Khutlang. The data we have generated from our screens have allowed us to uncover novel HIV-host interactions, as well as specific functional pathways that represent potential points of intervention for anti-HIV therapeutics,” says Jerolen.

Jerolen mentions that he learned about the competition via a colleague at the African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT).

“I would love to encourage everyone that is eligible to apply for these awards as they represent a truly prestigious accolade, as well as an important platform for us as the CSIR to showcase the impact of our work to many of our important stakeholders and partners.”

“As researchers, we often get caught up in our work behind a bench and tend to lose sight of the bigger picture. I think that these awards are an important reminder that those many hours spent in the lab are not just in pursuit of degrees or publications, but that our research also has an important role to play in making a positive difference in the world around us.”

“I was awarded with a certificate and trophy, as well as an opportunity to attend the BIO 2014 convention in the USA, paid for by the Gauteng Biotech Fundi Awards organisers. Further prizes have not yet been revealed,” concludes Jerolen.

This was the 3rd Biennial Biotech Fundi Awards, a flagship programme by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in partnership with The Innovation Hub, which is aimed at recognising Gauteng’s Biotech community. The awards bring together various biotechnology role-players and stakeholders with the sole objective of recognising achievements and excellence in the sector.

Story: S Ralarala, CSIR, News, August 2013