Coronavirus claims life of decorated scientist Professor Gita Ramjee

Professor Gita Ramjee who died due to coronavirus. (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center)
Professor Gita Ramjee who died due to coronavirus. (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center)

The coronavirus has claimed the life of an influential, decorated and award-winning South African scientist.

The Aurum Institute said it was deeply saddened by the death of Professor Gita Ramjee who was its chief scientific officer. 

The president and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Professor Glenda Gray, confirmed on Tuesday that Ramjee had died.

She was a world-renowned scientist who worked tirelessly to research ways to prevent HIV infection, especially among women.

The group CEO of the Aurum Institute, Professor Gavin Churchyard, said: "The world has lost a bold and compassionate leader in the response to HIV.

"Ramjee firmly believed in health as a fundamental human right. Her ground-breaking research in HIV prevention contributed to the global response to HIV and Aids. Our thoughts during this difficult time are with her family, colleagues and the many people her life and work touched."

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Ramjee was a critical player in the field of HIV prevention clinical trials and was acknowledged internationally for her expertise in the field of microbicide research, including a Lifetime Achievement Award for HIV Prevention.

Award winner

In 2018, she was honoured with the Outstanding Female Scientist Award by the European Development Clinical Trials Partnerships for her life's work which had focused on finding new HIV prevention methods.

Before taking up her appointment as chief scientific officer: HIV prevention at The Aurum Institute,  Ramjee was the chief specialist scientist and director of the HIV Prevention Research Unit at the SAMRC. 

She also held honorary professorships at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Washington in Seattle and University of Cape Town.

Ramjee published more than 200 research articles.

She was a reviewer and editor of several scientific journals and a member of several local and international committees and advisory groups, including the Academy of Science of South Africa and the South African National Aids Council.

"The Aurum Institute and the global HIV research community will mourn Gita Ramjee's passing and celebrate the huge contribution to the response to HIV she made in her life," said Churchyard.

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