South Africa

University of Cape Town

Director, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM); and Director, SAMRC/NHLS/UCT Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit (MMRU)

Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine
Wolfson Pavilion, Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Cape Town
Anzio Road, Observatory 7925, South Africa

+27 21 406 6738



Background and expertise of the representative

Valerie Mizrahi is the Professorial Director of the IDM. She also directs the MMRU and is the founding coo-director and current co-director University of Cape Town (UCT) node of the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research, a virtual centre involving three universities in South Africa. She obtained her PhD in Chemistry from UCT in 1983 and after postdoctoral training in the USA, she returned to South African to establish a research unit in the School of Pathology at the University of the Witwatersrand and National Health Laboratory Service in Johannesburg where she remained until 2010 before moving to UCT in 2011. Valerie was an International Research Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) from 2000-2010 and a Senior International Research Scholar of the HHMI from 2012-2017. Her research focuses on the physiology and metabolism of Mycobacterium tuberculosis of relevance to tuberculosis (TB) drug discovery, drug resistance, mycobacterial persistence and the aerobiology of TB transmission. Her research group, the MMRU, has made major contributions in understanding DNA, nucleotide, cofactor and energy metabolism in mycobacteria as well as resuscitation of M. tuberculosis from non-culturable states. Included in her major achievements was the identification of a novel system for damage tolerance in mycobacteria which has been implicated in the evolution of anti-TB drug resistance. Over the past 10 years, her research has focused on TB drug discovery through the identification and validation of new drug targets. Her research group pioneered the use of target-based whole-cell screening using hypomorphs of M. tuberculosis as a tool for bridging target-based and phenotypic approaches to hit identification. Her major awards include the 2017 Platinum Medal of the South African Medical Research Council; 2013 Mérieux Prize from the Mérieux Foundation and Institut de France; Helmholtz International Fellow Award (2012); Order of the Mapungubwe (South Africa, 2007); Gold Medal from the South African Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2006) and the 2000 Unesco-L’Oréal For Women in Science Prize (Africa and the Middle East region). She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology; African Academy of Sciences; Academy of Sciences of the Developing World; Royal Society of South Africa and Academy of Science of South Africa. She has served on many Scientific Advisory Boards/Committees including the Discovery Expert Group of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the TB Alliance; and currently is a member of the Science Interview Panel of the Wellcome Trust and ad hoc member of the SAB of Keystone Symposia.

Organisation profile

Situated on the health sciences campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT), the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) is a trans-Faculty, multi-disciplinary postgraduate research enterprise that focuses on infectious disease and molecular medicine research. In the IDM, world-class scientists work together to tackle diseases of major importance in Africa through cutting-edge laboratory, clinical and public health research. Work emanating from the IDM has been particularly influential in terms of the prevention and management of HIV and HIV-associated infections, as well as the diagnosis, immunopathogenesis and management of tuberculosis (TB) and TB-IRIS. By December 2017, the IDM comprised 32 Full, 16 Associate, 15 Affiliate and 15 Adjunct Members, and hosted 70 postdoctoral fellows and 190 postgraduate students. Soft-funded research, technical and administrative support staff numbered approximately 350 including those based at the clinical research sites at which several Member groups conduct their studies. The IDM hosts the Wellcome Centre for Clinical Infectious Diseases Research in Africa (CIDRI-Africa), the first Wellcome Centre established outside the UK, and the AFGrica Unit, as partnership between the University of Aberdeen and UCT, and the first international research centre for tackling fungal infections. Included among the entities embraced by the IDM are extramural units of the SAMRC; Research Chairs funded by the South African Research Chairs Initiative of the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Department of Science and Technology (DST); the UCT component of a DST/NRF Centre of Excellence; and three internationally renowned, multi-investigator groups that focus on HIV, TB and HIV-associated TB: CIDRI-Africa, the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre (DTHC) and the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI).  The IDM is distinguished by the ability to drive world-class research at the laboratory-clinic-community interface by engaging a wide range of scientific and clinical disciplines that include medical biochemistry; chemical biology; genetics; clinical and experimental immunology; microbiology; molecular and cell biology; paediatrics; infectious diseases; virology; vaccinology; epidemiology; medicinal chemistry; pre-clinical pharmacology; structural biology; bioinformatics; and computational biology. This unique environment enables significant output and draws substantial investment. Since 2004, members of the IDM have produced approximately 2700 scientific publications, which have been cited more than 85,000 times. In support of this effort, IDM members raise approximately ZAR500 million each year in research grants and contracts from international funders that include the US National Institutes of Health; the Wellcome Trust; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership; the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation; the European Commission; the South African Medical Research Council and the National Research Foundation of South Africa.

Contribution to the network

Prof. Mizrahi will contribute to tuberculosis drug discovery by assessing the inhibitory activity of compounds available through the network against different strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis under a variety of conditions in vitro (replicating, non-replicating, intracellular). Active compounds will then be further analysed by elucidating mechanisms of action using a range of assays, which are well established in her laboratory and draw on the expertise in chemical genomics, chemical biology and mycobacterial genetics and physiology in her laboratory. Novel targets emanating from these studies will be validated both genetically and pharmacologically.