News & Opportunities

Sunday, 08 October 2023

SANTHE alumna receives prestigious early-career award

Dr Omolara Baiyegunhi, SANTHE Post-doctoral alumna based at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban, South Africa, has received $745,272 USD in funding from Wellcome – a global charitable foundation based in the UK – to support her HIV cure research for the next five years.

HIV reservoirs – a group of immune system cells in the body that are infected with HIV but are not actively producing new virus – are the greatest barrier to HIV cure in people living with HIV and taking antiretroviral therapy (ART). Baiyegunhi’s project entitled, “Viral and metabolic determinants of HIV-1 reservoir establishment and persistence in ART treated individuals,” aims to identify the mechanisms that determine the size of the HIV reservoir in this population.

She will use sophisticated techniques like liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry and Luminex, among others, to measure small molecules present within patient plasma samples. The overall goal of the project is to design a new intervention to eradicate HIV reservoirs and, ultimately, achieve an HIV cure.

All the research will be done at AHRI in Durban, South Africa. SANTHE’s Programme Director, Professor Thumbi Ndung’u also based at AHRI in Durban, is Baiyegunhi’s mentor for this project, in collaboration with other researchers in the Netherlands and in the USA.

Wellcome early-career awards are highly competitive. The award funds projects which are bold, creative, and of excellent quality. The expectation is that the work should deliver shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health, and wellbeing and that by the end of the award, the early-career researcher will be ready to lead their own independent research programme.

SANTHE is an Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) flagship programme funded by the Science for Africa Foundation through the DELTAS Africa programme; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Gilead Sciences Inc.; and the Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT, and Harvard.