Stellenbosch University scientists on prestigious TIME magazine list of 100 most influential people

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Professor Tulio de Oliveira
Professor Tulio de Oliveira
PHOTO: Supplied/Stellenbosch University
  • TIME magazine has recognised two Stellenbosch academics.
  • Professor Tulio de Oliveira and Dr Sikhulile Moyo feature on the magazine's list of 100 most influential people of 2022.  
  • The two are known for their scientific research on battling Covid-19, among others.

Two Stellenbosch University (SU) scientists have been selected for TIME magazine's list of 100 most influential people of 2022.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira and Dr Sikhulile Moyo feature on the list as people who have made some of the most significant contributions to the world over the past year, after the magazine's international network of editors, thought leaders, and past recipients voted for them.

De Oliveira is a professor of bioinformatics who holds joint appointments at the university's School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Moyo is an SU alumnus who obtained his PhD in medical virology in 2016. He serves as a laboratory director at the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP). 

The two have been recognised for their work in genomics and epidemiology. 

In November 2021, they led the multidisciplinary team that discovered the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which quickly became the dominant variant of the virus globally. 

READ | Elon Musk named TIME magazine person of the year

SU rector and vice-chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, said:

This acknowledgement by TIME magazine proves that Africa's cutting-edge research has a global impact and further establishes De Oliveira and Moyo as international leaders in their field.

"Their research and subsequent discoveries enabled governments worldwide to make scientifically informed decisions about Covid-19 and the Omicron variant, and their inclusion in TIME's list is a just reward for their hard work and expertise. SU is immensely proud of their achievement and will continue to enable groundbreaking research with real-world impact," De Villiers said.

De Oliveira is the founding director of the university's new Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI).

He raised more than R300 million in funding.

CERI is based in the School for Data Science and Computational Thinking and operates from the Biomedical Research Institute at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences on SU's Tygerberg Campus and offices on the Stellenbosch Campus.

He is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) gold medal, and the South African health minister's special Covid-19 award at the seventh national Batho Pele excellence awards in March 2022.

He was included in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Technological Review list of the top 10 technological breakthroughs of 2022. 

HIV researcher

Moyo is also a research associate of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an adjunct senior lecturer at the University of Botswana. 

He has been serving as a member of Botswana's Covid-19 presidential task force and continues to contribute to that country's national response. 

He is a former co-chair of the laboratory technologist committee for the global AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) and the International Maternal, Paediatric, Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Network (Impaact). 

Dr Sikhulile Moyo
Dr Sikhulile Moyo has been selected to feature in the 2022 TIME magazine 100 most Influential people list.
Supplied Supplied Stellenbosch University

One of Moyo's biggest contributions has been to mother-to-child HIV transmission studies. 

These have had a significant impact on preventing HIV transmission, improving birth outcomes, HIV incidence, diversity and drug resistance, and multiple pathogen genomics projects involving hepatitis, norovirus, sapovirus, human papillomavirus and tuberculosis. 

The two have been described as passionate about leading the fight against epidemics from an African perspective, highlighting the importance of local and international collaboration in battling the current Covid-19 pandemic. 

READ | SA artist Nelson Makamo's work graces the cover of TIME magazine

"The only way to succeed is by collaborating and continuously sharing ideas. Success in science comes through genuine collaboration. Working with leading scientists at Stellenbosch, such as De Oliveira and the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa has been fulfilling for me and has exposed me to great, transparent science and capacity building," said Moyo.

De Oliveira added: "Other than patience, the secret to leading networks is to create a group identity with a common goal, for the common good. During the pandemic, what we did in South Africa was to remind hundreds of researchers that we're in a very strong position to respond scientifically."

"We have the facilities and a lot of experience in dealing with infectious viruses and respiratory pathogens. And we also have the willingness of our government to follow our scientific advice," he said.

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