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HIV researcher receives Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship


Award will be used to work on new method to prevent HIV infection in women

Professor Lynn Morris (BSc 1982, BSc Hons 1983) received the Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award in June. This highly prestigious award recognises researchers in Africa who possess an outstanding track record of intellectual and academic inquiry. Prof Morris is renowned for her studies of the antibody response to HIV. Her work is currently providing great promise for the development of an HIV vaccine

Professor Lynn Morris with the Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award

Prof Morris plans to use the Oppenheimer Fellowship to work on a new method to prevent HIV infection in women. An antibody that has been found to have exceptional antiviral activity against HIV will be engineered into bacteria found naturally in the vagina, in order to develop an anti-HIV probiotic for use intravaginally. If it works, it could provide a cheap, practical and effective way to empower women to protect themselves from infection.

Prof Morris heads the HIV Virology laboratories at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and is a Research Professor at Wits. In 2014 she received the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award and in 2015 the South African Medical Research Council’s Gold Merit Award. She is one of the most highly cited researchers in the world and has an A-rating from the National Research Foundation in South Africa.

Previous Wits recipients of the Oppenheimer Fellowship are Professor Helen Rees (2014), an expert in HIV prevention, reproductive health and vaccines; Professor Duncan Mitchell (2010), for research into the responses of large mammals to climate change; Professor Norman Owen-Smith (2005), also for work on large mammalian herbivores in changing environments; and chemical engineer Professor David Glasser (2001), who was the first recipient.