The Molecular and Cell Department has interests and expertise in diverse areas of biology.

Plant desiccation research (Professors Farrant and Illing): the problem of desiccation in plants is being tackled by a combination of physiological and molecular approaches.

Plant biotechnology (Professor Rybicki and Dr Rafudeen): research is focussed on developing virus-resistant and drought-tolerant crops, and optimising transient and transgenic expression of pharmaceutically-relevant proteins.

Signal transduction in Arabidopsis thaliana is being studied during plant-pathogen and plant-insect interactions, as well as in the control of flowering time.

Eukaryotic gene expression (Professors Hapgood and Illing, Associate Professor Ingle and Dr Oelgeschläger): projects include regulation of transcription by steroid receptors, the role of circadian rhythms in regulating the plant immune responses, the regulation of gene transcription in the malaria parasite Plasmodium, and the regulation of gene expression during neuronal differentiation.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Genetics (Dr O'Ryan): This research focuses on the genetic, epigenetic and biochemical associations of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Molecular virology (Professor Rybicki): studies focus on the expression of antigens from human and animal viruses in plants and insect cells for use as human and animal vaccines, and on the genetic diversity and molecular biology of single-stranded DNA viruses.

Research in biochemistry (Professor Hapgood and Dr Oelgeschläger): includes investigating the structure, function and post-translational modification of HIV proteins and their interactions with host proteins with a view to understanding mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and drug development, and studies into the structure, assembly, function and regulation of the transcription initiation machinery in Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of severe malaria.

Research in cellular and molecular immunology (Dr Hurdayal) includes gene-deficient murine-models of human Leishmaniasis and parasite-based transcriptomics/proteomics to understand host susceptibility or resistance to Leishmania infection.

Research in marine biotechnology (Associate Professor Coyne): includes the development of vaccines for farmed kob, genomic and proteomic studies of the effect of stress and disease on the abalone immune system, and the role of marine microorganisms in abalone nutrition and disease resistance.

Research in microbiology (Dr Meyers and Dr Dube): South African soil and marine actinomycete bacteria are being screened for novel antibiotics and population genetics of Streptococcus pneumoniae in South African children.


Human Health
Human Immunodeficiency Virus HIV (Janet Hapgood)
Vaccine Development (Ed Rybicki)
Neurobiology (Nicola Illing)

Drug Discovery
Antibiotics (Paul Meyers)
Novel Contraceptives (Janet Hapgood)
Anti-malarial compounds (Trevor Sewell)

Marine Biotechnology
Abalone Immunology (Vernon Coyne)
Pathogen and Stress Response in Seaweed (Vernon Coyne)
Probiotics (Vernon Coyne)

Probiotics (Vernon Coyne)
Antibiotic producing bacteria (Paul Meyers)

Molecular Evolution
Conservation Genetics (Colleen O’Ryan)
Evolution of Development (Nicola Illing)
Antibiotic-producing bacteria diversity (Paul Meyers)

Plant Molecular Biology
Desiccation tolerance in plants (Jill Farrant, Suhail Rafudeen, Nicola Illing)
Bioremediation (Robert Ingle)
Plant pathogen defence (Robert Ingle)

Vaccine development (Ed Rybicki)
Plant viruses (Ed Rybicki)
HIV (Janet Hapgood)