South Africa

University of Cape Town

Lead scientists: Carolyn Williamson, Wendy Burgers

The Division of Medical Virology is supported by the University of Cape Town (UCT) and National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS).  The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) virology diagnostic laboratory provides a comprehensive service, including SARS-CoV-2 testing, to Groote Schuur Hospital, Red Cross Children’s Hospital and the Western Cape Province. It is one of two referral laboratories in the province.

Prof. Carolyn Williamson, Head of Medical Virology (UCT/NHLS), has extensive experience in HIV sequencing, and more recently SARS-CoV-2 sequencing. She works together with A.Prof. Marvin Hsiao (Pathologist) (UCT; NHLS), who leads the diagnostic subgroup of the South African national variant consortium. Together they are responsible for the SARS-CoV-2 sequencing efforts conducted at UCT as part of the Network for Genomic Surveillance South Africa (NGS-SA).

The Viral Immunology Unit led by A.Prof. Wendy Burgers performs cellular immunology studies of SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination, and is conducting cellular immunology endpoints for several clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines. She leads the cellular immunology subgroup of the South African national variant consortium.

Both groups are based at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) which was established in 2004 as a cross-faculty postgraduate research institute based within the UCT. They are also part of the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa (CIDRI-Africa). The institute is physically and administratively located within the Faculty of Health Sciences. The IDM conducts research at the laboratory-clinic-community interface by engaging a wide range of scientific and clinical disciplines.

Roles in the COVICS project:
  • Co-lead of WP2 General Population Studies and will contribute to the characterization of emerging VOCs from general population cohorts
  • Contribution to genomic and virological surveillance (WP5)
  • Contribution to to immune surveillance (WP6)

CoVICIS is funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme under grant nr 101046041