South Africa

Wits Health Consortium

Lead scientists: Penny Moore

Prof. Penny Moore who is based at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa is the grantee, with the sub-award being administered by Wits Health Consortium (Pty) Ltd (WHC). WHC is wholly-owned company of the University of the Witwatersrand. It supports research activities and manages donor funds for academic staff including those at NICD who have joint appointments at the University.

The HIV and SARS-CoV-2 Virology Section is a globally accredited laboratory responsible for performing validated end-point antibody for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), including passive and active vaccination regimens. A major research focus of the Section is to understand how broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV develop (including virology, immunology and immunogenetics), as such antibodies are crucial for the development of an effective HIV vaccine. Since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 the laboratory has studied the humoral response to this virus, with a particular focus on variants of concern and their impact on neutralization by vaccinee and convalescent sera, which has contributed to understanding the immune response to emerging variants and the implications for the design of second generation adapted COVID-19 vaccines. The section also engineers HIV and SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies of interest isolated from both infected and vaccinated individuals. A major focus is training and the Section hosts many students and post-doctoral fellows.

Roles in the COVICS project:

Co-lead of WP6 Immune Surveillance and will contribute to:

  • Harmonize and cross-validate anti-Spike and Spike-ACE2 surrogate neutralization assay
  • Longitudinal analysis of neutralizing antibody activity, breadth and Fc effector function in serum sample from the different cohorts
  • Assessment and evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 specific cellular immune response

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