The MCB seminar series is a wonderful resource for students and staff to discover the research of local and international researchers in molecular biology and associated fields. Recordings of their 2020 zoom presentations can be found below.

Decolonizing plant genomics: broadening participation and expanding taxonomic representation | Dr Rose Marks
Michigan State University; USA NSF's Plant Genome Program; MCB
Dr Marks is a postdoctoral research fellow in the USA NSF's Plant Genome Program. She completed her PhD in 2019 from the University of Kentucky under the guidance of Dr Nicholas McLetchie. Currently, Dr Marks splits her time between Michigan State University (where she works with Dr Robert VanBuren) and The University of Cape Town (where she works with Prof. Jill Farrant). Her work centres around understanding adaptation to extreme water scarcity, with a particular focus on arid biomes in southern Africa. She uses both ecological and genomic approaches to investigate the mechanisms of desiccation tolerance in resurrection plants. You can read more about Dr Marks’ research at She is passionate about inclusivity, open science, and decolonizing botany.
Studies on immunity to SARS-CoV-2 | Assoc. Prof. Wendy Burgers
Division of Virology & IDM, University of Cape Town
Wendy Burgers obtained her PhD from Cambridge University, UK. She is currently Senior Fellow of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership.
She leads a research group of postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers. The group usually focusses on understanding immunity in HIV-TB co-infection but, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, have switched to research on immune responses to SARS-CoV-2, through funding from the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Africa (CIDRI) and SA-MRC.

Experimental allergic immune responses: Mouse to (wo)man and back to mouse | Dr Sabelo Hadebe
Dept Pathology, University of Cape Town
Dr Sabelo Hadebe is Senior Lecturer in the Division of Immunology. He obtained his PhD in Immunobiology with Gordon Brown (FRS) at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland). He then did his Postdoctoral training with Anne O'Garra (FRS) on the role of innate cytokines in experimental models of Tuberculosis at the Crick Institute (London, UK). He returned to South Africa as a Robert Bosch Research Fellow in the Brombacher Laboratory at UCT. He was recruited as a Lecturer in immunology in 2018 and currently leads the Allergy Research Group. His research focusses on mechanisms of allergic diseases using in vitro systems, transgenic and gene knockout mouse models. 

Regulation of the progesterone receptor by progesterones, antiretroviral drugs and the glucocorticoid receptor | Kin Enfield
Dept Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town
Kim completed her undergrad and honours degrees at MCB. She started her MSc in Prof. Janet Hapgood's lab in 2016 and after producing promising results, decided to upgrade her project to a PhD. Her research focusses on progestogens used in hormonal contraceptives (HCs) hormonal replacement therapies (HRTs) used globally by women. Importantly, the relative activity of some of the progestogens used in HCs and HRT has not been determined via their target steroid receptor, the progesterone receptor and its isoforms (PR-A and PR-B). Her thesis involves an in vitro investigation of some of the factors that affect PR activity and that may thus impact progestogen responses in women in HC or HRT. These include progestogen-specific effects via PR-A and PR-B, the role of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and crosstalk with the glucocorticoid receptor.
Covid-19 variants: Need for recalibration expectations of vaccines | Prof. Shabir Madhi
Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand
Shabir A. Madhi is a Professor of Vaccinology in the School of Pathology at the University of the Witwatersrand and Director of the world-renowned Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (VIDA).He is an NRF A-rated Scientist and SARChI chair in Vaccine Preventable Diseases. As a trained paediatrician, Madhi's research has focussed on the epidemiology and clinical development of vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease. These studies have informed World Health Organisation recommendations on the use of the life-saving vaccines in children and pregnant women. In 2016, Madhi received the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trial Partnership Award for Scientific Leadership and in 2013 the Medical Research Council Lifetime Award Platinum Medal, amongst other accolades.

Prospects for producing molecular complexes for vaccines and antibodies in plants | Prof. Julian Ma
Institute for Infection and Immunity, St George's University of London
Professor Ma holds the Hotung Chair of Molecular Immunology. He has been Director of the Institute for Infection and Immunity at St George's since 2014. He is also the Principal Investigator for Pharma-Factory, an €8.3M EU Horizon 2020 project to advance the commercial pipeline of products from molecular pharming.
Julian Ma’s research focuses on the development and production of recombinant protein medicines, through plant biotechnology. By using plants such as tobacco, as production hosts for pharmaceutical proteins, his research group works on the treatment and prevention of diseases that are major concerns in developing countries – including HIV, tuberculosis, rabies, dengue and chikungunya.

Exploring gene regulatory dynamics during development | Dr Dorit Hockman
Division of Cellular, Nutritional and Physiological Sciences, University of Cape Town
Dr Hockman received her undergraduate and MSc from UCT and her PhD from University of Cambridge. In 2013, she joined Trinity College (University of Oxford) as a Junior Research Fellow and began work on her current research into the evolution of the neural crest gene regulatory network. From 2016, she worked as a Leverhulme Trust funded post-doctoral researcher in the Sauka-Spengler lab at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. During this period, Dorit also held the Sydney Brenner Post-Doctoral Fellowship, which allowed her to establish a new collaboration between the University of Cape Town, the University of Oxford and the California Institute of Technology. Dr Dorit Hockman was appointed as a lecturer in the Division of Cell Biology in 2018 and was awarded the Royal Society/African Academy of Sciences FLAIR fellowship in 2019.
Developing High-Throughput CRISPRi-based Functional Genomic Techniques for Mycobacteria | Timothy de Wet 
Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town
Mr de Wet is a MBChB/PhD candidate at the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town

Coronaviruses: the good, the bad and the ugly | Prof.  George Lomonossoff
John Innes Centre, UK
Prof. Lomonossoff is a virologist who uses molecular biology to understand the assembly and properties of viruses. He uses a synthetic biology approach to create synthetic virus-like particles. He has exploited a highly efficient transient expression system to produce pharmacologically active proteins within plants. Research on protein expression in plants, including secondary metabolite biosynthesis, resulted in Frank Sainsbury (then a PhD student at the John Innes Centre) and George being named BBSRC Overall Innovators of the Year in 2012. From

A rapid assay for SARS-CoV-2 mRNA detection which is non-mAb and non-PCR | Prof. Johannes Buyel
RWTH Aachen University, Germany
Prof. Buyel is Head of Department of Integrated Production Platforms, supervising process development and scale-up, supervising projects focussed on the expression of challenging proteins (e.g. containing intrinsically disordered regions), the overall bioprocess integration (e.g. using side-stream biomass) and the modeling of manufacturing processes as well as their digitalization. From 


For any seminar-related queries, please contact Dr Felix Dube.