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What is a Research Entity?

The University recognises that the image, reputation and competitiveness of an institution depend on the range and quality of its research performance. The University expects all academic staff to be research-active, consistent with the norms and standards of their disciplines. Over and above this, the University encourages the development and, where appropriate, the formal recognition of research entities so that they can become a focal point of the University’s research effort and promotion.

Applying for formal recognition as a Research Entity

Would you like to apply to the University Research Committee for formal Research Entity status?

A proposal for formal recognition as a research entity (Institute, Group, Unit or Programme) may be submitted to the University Research Committee (URC) via the Faculty Research Committee (FRC) at any time. To find out more, please read the Research Entity Policy, Procedures, and Standing Orders.

To apply, please complete the Application form and send it to

Research Entity Annual Reports

Every research entity is required by the Faculty Research Committee (FRC) and the University Research Committee (URC) to prepare an annual report and present it to the FRC by 31 March of the following year. Each report will be reviewed by the FRC and forwarded to the University Research Office, not later than 30 April. Entities which are co-recognised by the Medical Research Council (MRC) may submit the same report as submitted to the MRC.

Framework for Writing an Annual Report - guidelines for the Annual Report to be submitted by non-MRC entities.

Quinquennial Reviews

Quinquennial Reviews - Faculty Research Committee

Every research entity will be subject to periodic reviews which will normally be on a five yearly cycle. Where practical, this may be included in a quinquennial School review, even if it means resetting the recognition cycle of the entity to coincide, but the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) must be consulted over how the Faculty Research Committee (FRC) and University Research Committee’s (URC) interests are to be represented in the review process. He/she will reserve the right to involve external experts.

Download the guidelines for quinquennial reviews of Wits research entities

Quinquennial Reviews - Medical Research Council

Every MRC/Wits or MRC/NHLS/Wits research entity will be subject to periodic joint review by the MRC and FRC/URC, usually every five years.

The following Wits research entities are also MRC research entities:

  • Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit
  • Centre for Health Policy/Health Policy Research Group
  • Respiratory Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit
  • Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit

Download the guidelines for quinequennial reviews of Wits/MRC entities.

Research Entities in the Faculty of Health Sciences

Each entity is based in one of the Schools of the Faculty of Health Sciences and has a Director or Leader. Five of the Faculty's entities are co-recognised by the Medical Research Council of South Africa (MRC). The research entities based in the Faculty of Health sciences and currently recognised by the University and Faculty Research Committees include (click on the name of each research entity for more information):

Antiviral Gene Therapy Research Unit (MRC)

Director: Professor Patrick Arbuthnot

Investigation by the AGTRU team is focused on countering viral infections that cause serious health problems in sub Saharan Africa. The long term objectives of AGTRU are to advance gene therapy for treatment of viral infections, develop human capacity in the field through the training of young scientists, and to translate the unit’s technologies into products. Research activities are generously supported by South African and International funding agencies. South African and international partnerships have been established, and these are an important contributor to the group’s resource base. AGTRU is equipped as a modern molecular biology research laboratory and has expertise in a range of techniques. These are advanced methods of nucleic acid manipulation, gene transfer to mammalian cells, and use of lipoplex and recombinant viral vectors. AGTRU is set up to investigate efficacy of antiviral compounds in vivo in murine (e.g. HBV transgenic mice) and cell culture models of viral replication.

Bone Research Laboratory Unit

Director: Professor Ugo Ripamonti

The BRL is committed to gain insights into the mechanisms of bone, cartilage and connective tissue morphogenesis, development and regeneration, and to promote and accelerate the healing of bone in man. The BRL strives to provide new information to plan therapeutic strategies to initiate and manipulate tissue morphogenesis and bone regeneration, bone growth into prosthetic implants, to restore local and systemic bone mass, and to develop synthetic bone substitutes for the twenty-first century. The BRL is committed to foster an intellectual environment that initiates and maintains the highest possible level of scientific performance by providing free and innovative thinking, transfer of knowledge and implementation of skills. 

Brain Function Research Group

Director: Professor Andrea Fuller

The Brain Function Research Group (BFRG) investigates selected functions of the brain, and physiological and biochemical processes in which the central nervous system plays a key regulatory role.

Carbohydrate and Lipid Metabolism Research Unit

Director: Professor Frederick Raal

The focus of the Unit’s research includes the epidemiological, clinical and Biochemical aspects of common diseases affecting lipid, and glucose Metabolism in the different ethnic groups of southern Africa. These include familial hypercholesterolaemia and other dyslipidaemias, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus as well as other related metabolic disorders.

Cardiovascular Pathophysiology and Genomics Research Unit

Director: Professor Angela Woodiwiss

The Cardiovascular Pathophysiology and Genomic Research Unit (CPGRU) is a University recognised unit in the School of Physiology with extensive collaborations across clinical departments. The unit has special interests in the impact on the cardiovascular system of aortic dysfunction, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, chronic inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis), and HIV. In addition, the unit contributes to the understanding of heart failure and sex-differences in cardiovascular disease. 

Clinical HIV Research Unit

Director: Professor Ian Sanne

The Clinical HIV Research Unit (CHRU) runs clinical trials undertaking clinical research to prevent, treat and manage HIV/AIDS, TB and associated diseases. It is a division of the Wits Health Consortium, a wholly owned company of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) located in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is affiliated to the Department of Internal Medicine at Wits. It is home to a multi-disciplinary team which is making a significant scientific contribution to local and international efforts to combat HIV, TB and HIV-associated cancers.

Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit (MRC)

Director: Professor Shane Norris

The MRC/Wits Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit (DPHRU) is situated in the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) as an extramural research unit based at the University of the Witwatersrand. Addressing national priorities of increasing life expectancy, decreasing maternal and child mortality and strengthening health system effectiveness, DPHRU forms a unique research platform with substantial infrastructure and equipment, extensive longitudinal data from the Birth to Twenty Plus cohort, and well-established links with urban and rural South African communities.

Effective Care Research Unit

Director: Dr Mandisa Singata-Madiki

The Effective Care Research Unit's research specializes in reproductive health outcomes with focus on hypertensive disorders, postpartum haemorrhage, intrapartum asphyxia, unexplained intrauterine death, unplanned pregnancy and PMTCT. As an accredited World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaboration Centre in Reproductive Health Research Synthesis, the unit trains and conducts quality Cochrane reviews and randomized trials on reproductive health issue in low income settings.

Empilweni Services and Research Unit

Director: Professor Ashraf Coovadia

The Empilweni Services and Research Unit (ESRU), situated at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Johannesburg - South Africa, is comprised of a research clinic as well as a clinic offering routine services. Whilst the unit started out with a focus on HIV it has increasingly acquired the skills and appetite for research in other areas such as Tuberculosis. The unit will actively encourage research into other childhood infectious diseases and infectious diseases in pregnant women.

Health Policy Research Group/Centre for Health Policy

Director: Dr Nonhlanhla Nxumalo

The Centre for Health Policy (CHP) is one of the few multi-disciplinary health policy units in South Africa and has over 20 years of research experience. The primary focus of our research is to support the development of the South African health system.

Hepatitis Virus Diversity Research Unit

Director: Professor Anna Kramvis

The research objective of the Hepatitis Virus Diversity Research Unit is the study of sequence variation of hepatitis viruses, in particular of hepadnaviruses and hepatitis C virus, their functional characterization and their role in the clinical manifestation of liver disease. Our research falls into three areas: clinical and epidemiological, functional in vitro characterization and development of Bioinformatics tools necessary to study hepatitis viruses.

HIV Pathogenesis Research Unit

Director: Professor Maria Papathanasopoulos

The HIV Pathogenesis Research Unit conducts research to increase the knowledge base of HIV-1 subtype C pathogenesis that can be translated into novel drug discovery and vaccine design.

Human Variation and Identification Research Unit

Director: Professor Maryna Steyn

The aim of this research unit is to study modern human variation, how this variation came to be, and some of its practical applications (e.g., when it comes to human identification in forensic contexts or assessing modern growth processes). The results of this research will shed light on modern human adaptations, specifically with respect to patterns of health and disease. It bridges the gap between the study of fossil hominids and modern, living people and sheds light on where we are today – the modern human experience.

Infectious Diseases and Oncology Research Institute

Director: Prof Robert Breiman

IDORI's world-class infectious diseases and oncology scientists and clinicians converge, collaborate, and create innovative research that will yield novel, tangible solutions to address diseases that cause substantial mortality, suffering, economic hardship, inequitably experienced on the African continent. We have a bold and courageous vision to substantially reduce the individual and societal burden of cancer and infectious diseases through collaborative, cross-disciplinary, ground-breaking research with translation to effective tools and strategies.

Infectious Diseases and Oncology Research Institute (IDORI)

Perinatal HIV Research Unit

Director: Dr Neil Martinson (Acting Director)

Perinatal HIV Research Unit researchers investigate adult, adolescent and paediatric HIV treatments; co-infections such as tuberculosis (TB); novel HIV prevention methods; and innovative behavioural and social science research.

Priority Cost Effective Lessons for Systems Strengthening Research Unit - MRC

Director: Professor Karen Hofman

PRICELESS SA undertakes research and provides evidence that demonstrates how to improve health and life expectancy in South Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa. Our priority areas are: maternal and child health, non-communicable diseases, nutrition in the first 1,000 days, preventing road traffic injuries and deaths, health-promoting polices, and health systems and health systems reform.

PRICELESS SA is the leading Southern African institution for formal, degreed postgraduate teaching in health economics and decision science.

Project for Improving Neonatal Care (PRINCE)

Director: Professor Daynia Ballot

Project for Improving Neonatal Care undertakes research into quality improvement in neonatal care in three specific areas -perinatal asphyxia, extreme prematurity and prevention of infection.

Pulmonary Infections Research Unit

Director: Professor Charles Feldman

Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (MRC)

Director: Professor Stephen Tollman

The Agincourt Health and Socio-Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS), located in in rural northeast South Africa close to the Mozambique border, provides the foundation for the Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit of the Medical Research Council (MRC) and University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa (the MRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit). The Agincourt health and demographic surveillance site supports research along the lifecourse from children – with a strong focus on adolescents – to older adults and elderly.  The social determinants of health are key areas of investigation.

Strengthening Oncology Systems Research Unit

Director: Dr Maureen Joffe

Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Director: Professor Michele Ramsay

Named after Nobel Laureate and Wits University graduate, Sydney Brenner, the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience (SBIMB) is a burgeoning multi-disciplinary research institute dedicated to investigating the molecular and genomic aetiology of diseases among African populations.

By creating a world-class research environment, where top scientific and clinical researchers can tackle the big scientific questions in biomedical molecular research areas, the SBIMB aims to enable the development of new and innovative solutions to some of Africa’s greatest health challenges.

Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform

Director: Professor Yahya Choonara

The WADDP is a formally recognised research enity at Wits University within the Faculty of Health Sciences and consistently produces high quality research for over two decades. It provides the largest postgraduate and postdoctoral training and research platform of its kind in South Africa for candidates with a specific passion to undertake cutting-edge research in the pharmaceutical sciences.

The WADDP is also a recognized African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI) Center of Excellence in Nanomedicine and Advanced Drug Delivery. ANDI CoEs are spread across Africa to conduct research, development and innovation on drugs, diagnostics, vaccines, medical devices and traditional medicines.

Wits Diagnostic Innovation Hub
Director: Professor Wendy Stevens
Wits, Infectious Diseases and Oncology Research Institute
Director: TBA
Wits Institute for Sport and Health (WISH) Research Group

Director: Professor Jonathan Patricios

Wits Sport and Health (WiSH) aims to enhance the lives of athletes and communities by offering sport and exercise medicine programmes, sourced from high calibre, internationally-recognised training programmes, to facilitate peak performance and rehabilitation.

The WiSH Research pillar is concerned with research into physical activity, exercise and sports, which would in turn have a significant impact both locally and globally. The research agenda of WiSH-R is in direct alignment with the University of the Witwatersrand’s vision “to be a globally-leading research-intensive university and a gateway to research, engagement and intellectual achievement in Africa”.

Wits Maternal, Adolescent and Child Health (MatCH) Research Unit

Director: Professor Jennifer Smit

MatCH Research Unit (MRU), based in Durban is a Research Unit of the Wits Health Consortium (Pty) Ltd in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand.

MRU aims to answer priority research questions that will translate into improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes through expanding access to appropriate and acceptable contraceptive, HIV prevention and related health technologies, policies and services. Using a range of methodologies, we conduct behavioural, operations and clinical research, actively partnering and involving communities and local structures.

Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute

Director: Professor Helen Rees

A leading multi-disciplinary research institute with a focus in sexual and reproductive health, vaccine and infectious diseases, and other emerging issues. Lead and deliver successful research projects with an impact in the communities the Institute serves.

Wits Research Institute for Malaria

Director: Professors Robyn Van Zyl and Lizette Koekemoer

Wits Research Institute for Malaria brings together malaria research groups and individuals within the University of the Witwatersrand to create a critical mass that will consolidate current research, open new avenues of collaborative research, leverage funding, and provide an exciting and stimulating environment for students who contribute substantially to increasing the knowledge base on all key aspects of malaria transmission and control, from mosquitoes to parasites, treatment and epidemiology.

Wits Research Institute for Malaria

Wits, Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics (VIDA) Research Unit (MRC

Director: Professor Shabir Madhi

The Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics (“VIDA”) Research Unit of the University of the Witwatersrand (“Wits”), is an African-led research unit that combines clinical, microbiological and epidemiological expertise to deliver scientific breakthroughs in the field of vaccines and infectious diseases. We strive to make a meaningful difference to the communities around us, as well as at a global level through pioneering work led by accomplished teams.