Professor Valerie Mizrahi, director of UCT's Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IIDMM), has been awarded the coveted Grand Prix Christophe Mérieux Prize by the Institute de France in Paris.
The €500,000 award (over R6 million), made by the Institute's Academy of Sciences, is a highly prestigious international accolade and will be presented to Mizrahi at a ceremony in Paris on 5 June.
Paying tribute to Mizrahi's research, member of the Academy of Sciences Pascale Cossart said: "What characterises Valerie Mizrahi's work is not only her excellent research on Mycobacterium tuberculosis and tuberculosis, but also her very active involvement in the tuberculosis community in South Africa, on the African continent, and internationally."
The Academy of Sciences, which makes awards to the most meritorious scientists and promising research projects, also lauded Mizrahi for her special qualities in mentoring students, particularly those engaged in TB research.
"Valerie's work is characterised by an incredible ability to engage with students in research, through supervising and coaching. The way she does this is widely acknowledged," added Cossart.
In her response to the prize Mizrahi said: "For me the most gratifying part of it is that the award committee recognised my commitment to, and passion for, developing people. I've trained so many young scientists - and this award is for them."
She plans to use most of the prize money to hire senior researchers who are able to bring new skills to the laboratory that she runs with IIDMM colleague Dr Digby Warner, particularly in chemical biology and bioinformatics.
"Given the shortage of career opportunities for outstanding early-career scientists who are interested in pursuing a career in biomedical research in South Africa, I believe this would be a great investment," she said.
Mizrahi also plans to purchase laboratory equipment to provide opportunities for students from the laboratory to travel abroad for specialised training.
The IIDMM is a centre of excellence where world-class scientists work collaboratively to tackle diseases of importance in Africa. As the largest postgraduate research institute at UCT, the IIDMM is a major training hub in Africa for biomedical, clinical and public health researchers, and currently hosts some 150 postgraduate students and 80 postdoctoral research fellows in more than 20 multi-investigator research groups.
The IIDMM has a very strong thrust in TB research, hosting the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, the Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative, the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, and the UCT node of the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research.
The Institute de France consists of five academies with a rich history spanning several centuries. The Institute's Academy of Sciences was founded in 1666.
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