UCT scientists shine at MRC awards

06 November 2013 | Story by Newsroom

UCT scientists featured prominently in the Medical Research Council's (MRC) recent merit award ceremony, with "the highest honour in medical research in the country" being conferred on four high profile academics.

Emeritus Professor Eric Bateman, director of the Lung Institute, received a lifetime achievement award in the form of the MRC's platinum medal. Professor Keertan Dheda, head of the Division of Pulmonology, was one of the recipients of a gold medal. The director of the drug discovery and development centre, H3-D, Professor Kelly Chibale and Associate Professor Graeme Meintjes of the Department of Medicine were acknowledged with the MRC Young Scientist Award (silver medal).

Prof Eric Bateman Prof Keertan Dheda
Professor Eric Bateman Professor Keertan Dheda

"I see this unexpected honour as recognition and reward for the efforts of my research group, which has embraced my vision and research ideas and turned them into notable, and even widely acclaimed, achievements,' said Bateman. With this award the MRC set out to confirm Bateman's "status as clinician-researcher, whose lifetime contribution to medical research both nationally and globally has been remarkable in its breadth and depth".

Dheda considered his medal recognition of "the enabling and nurturing environment of UCT, the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Department of Medicine. It shows that despite several limitations, including funding, we remain internationally competitive and one of the leading medical schools globally".

Prof Kelly Chibale Associate Professor Graeme Meintjes
Professor Kelly Chibale Associate Professor Graeme Meintjes

Commenting on his silver medal, Chibale said, "It is both humbling and encouraging. It gives me a deep sense of responsibility. It also feels extra special because the MRC has officially declared me a 'Young Scientist', at least for 2013."

Meintjes said the recognition was a huge personal honour and added that it underlined the fact that success in research was a team effort. "I am deeply indebted to those who have mentored me from the start of my research career, including all the clinical and laboratory staff who I work with and the postgraduate students working in our group," he stated. Meintjes, who is a member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, was recently honoured by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership with the 2013 Rising Star African Scientist award.

The MRC merit awards ceremony was last held in 1999. Having revived these awards, the MRC hopes they will serve as "testimony to (South African researchers') eminent contributions to global health and well-being," said Professor Salim S. Abdool Karim, president of the MRC. He referred to the medals as, "the highest honour in medical research in the country".

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