Research

AHRI aims to find answers about HIV, TB and related diseases that have truly global significance, but are grounded in and relevant to the health of people locally.

Research at AHRI

 

AHRI is a multidisciplinary research institute. It combines the strengths of detailed population data with basic science and experimental medicine research conducted at our sophisticated laboratory facilities. This allows us to understand the health of a population, and conduct intervention studies with the aim of improving treatment and care.

 

Research at AHRI is led by a Faculty of 14 scientists, each of whom heads up their own research group. The research groups span disciplines from basic science through to systems biology, population health, health systems and social science. AHRI’s research is underpinned by a strong policy and public engagement agenda.

 

AHRI Science Office

 

AHRI is committed to providing a research environment that develops good research practice and nurtures a culture of research integrity. The AHRI Science Office coordinates research activities, providing research and clinical governance, grants and ethics support for new funding applications and protocols and postgraduate education support.

 

We also welcome the wide variety of opportunities for research and cross-disciplinary innovation in working collaboratively or in partnership with other institutions in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa and the world. If you want to collaborate or discuss our research we would love to hear from you. All research activities are coordinated through the AHRI Science Office.

AHRI Research Departments

Support for AHRI’s research is structured through five Research Departments. Each Department is led by Scientific Officers, who provide all necessary support to the research infrastructure while working closely with the Science Office.

Laboratory Research Department

The Laboratory Research Department provides world-class laboratory facilities, equipment and technologies, skilled staff, as well as training and capacity development in support of AHRI’s scientific strategy and research agenda. The Department is co-led by Theresa Smit, Head of Diagnostic Research, and Hollis Shen, Head of Exploratory Research. Diagnostic Research services include clinical sample logistics and biorepository management, diagnostic tests for HIV, TB and other infectious agents as well as molecular services (including sequencing). Exploratory Research provides access to and support for various high-end analytical and imaging instruments and small animal research models.

The key services offered by the Department include:

  • Specimen biobanking
  • M. tuberculosis diagnostic tests and drug susceptibility test
  • Quantitative virological assays and HIV serological tests
  • Next generation sequencing
  • Specimen histological preparation and Imaging
  • Flow cytometry analysis and cell sorting
  • Liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry analysis
  • Mice and guinea pig M. tuberculosis infection models

Research Data Management Department

The Research Data Management Department ensures that research data generated from AHRI’s population, clinical and laboratory studies are efficiently integrated, managed and curated in accordance with the best research data management practices. The Department extracts, transforms, documents and loads datasets from study data management systems into the data repository, where researchers can access data in an integrated way for analysis and publication.

The department is led by Dickman Gareta, supported by two senior research data managers; Day Munatsi, based in Durban and responsible for clinical research data management, and Jaco Dreyer, based at Somkhele and responsible for intervention studies data management. The Department also has a clinical research data manager and a team of junior research data managers and data management assistants.

Clinical Research Department

 

The Clinical Research Department focuses on the management and oversight of the clinical research process from concept development to study conclusion. We work at both health facilities (clinics and hospitals in Somkhele and eThekwini) as well in the community/field at Somkhele. We also make use of mobile clinical teams at Somkhele which allows for greater community access. We are involved with recruitment of healthy participants as well as those that have specific diseases which include HIV, TB and non-communicable diseases. The department is co-led by Farina Karim and Olivier Koole. The studies we are involved in range from explorative studies, observational cohort studies and clinical trials. We have established a network of relationships with clinicians and collaborators for supply of fresh tissue samples for explorative basic research on HIV and TB.

Social Science and Research Ethics Department

 

Social Science and Research Ethics at AHRI is engaged in a range of research projects, both led by members of the Department and collaborating on projects led by other Groups. Department members include Senior Social Scientists, Social Science Coordinators and Social Science Research Assistants, skills in the use of both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, analysis and writing. The team also has skills in community and public engagement.

Population Research Department

 

The Population Research Department provides world class, coordinated research operational support for population-level research studies including development and implementation of innovative, efficient and cost-effective field-based and telephonic data collection systems, anchored on robust quality assurance and quality control practices.

The department is led by Tinofa Mutevedzi and is organised into five functional sections:

  • Phumzile Dlamini leads a Fieldwork team of 70 staff experienced in home-based paper and electronic data collection, anthropometry measurements, collection of dry blood spots (DBS) and capillary blood through finger prick, urine and saliva, and rapid HIV testing.
  • Thobeka Mngomezulu leads a Special Task team of 20 staff specialising in tracking hard-to-reach populations such as migrants.
  • Halalisani Madida leads a Data Processing team of 20 staff responsible for quality control, data capture, and telephonic data collection through a Call Centre that is also able to reach study participants through SMS services.
  • Lindiwe Sithole leads a Document Management team of four staff responsible for printing, control and digital archiving of data documents.
  • Sabelo Ntuli coordinates provision of GIS services including production of maps and collection of spatial data.