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Renowned medical oncologist to Chair Ethics Committee

- Wits University

Emeritus Professor Paul Ruff was appointed Chairperson of the Wits Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC): Medical, effective 1 August 2023.

The Wits HREC: Medical oversees medical research studies and projects, including higher degrees, and local and international collaborative research, as well as commercial clinical trials.

Wits’ Ethics Committees are registered with the National Department of Health’s National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC), ensuring highly ethical and top quality research.

Emeritus Professor Paul Ruff

As Wits HREC: Medical Chair, Ruff is determined to maintain an excellent, highly efficient, and transparent approval process, and he is keen to engage with applicants to ensure ongoing quality and ethical research.

Ruff says, “I envisage ongoing excellence and efficiency in considering the ethics of proposed research at the University that involves human participants. I’m determined to run a transparent and efficient ethics approval process and I am open to engaging with applicants to ensure that good quality research continues at Wits.”

Furthermore, he is keen to cooperate with other HRECs throughout the country, a process that has recently commenced.

A Witsie with extensive clinical, research experience

Ruff has an enduring association with Wits, having earned his MBBCh in 1979. As Professor and Specialist Medical Oncologist, he served as Head of Medical Oncology at the University from 2002 until 2021.

Since 2018, Ruff has chaired the Clinical Trials Committee of SAPHRA (South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, which replaced the old Medicines Controls Council (MCC) whose Clinical Trials Committee he chaired from 2015. 

He has been Principal Investigator (PI) of the Wits/South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Common Epithelial Cancer Research Centre (CECRC) since 2015, and Co-PI, with Columbia University in New York, of National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded grants in HIV and breast cancer.

A leader locally and abroad

Ruff has filled many leadership positions within Wits, at the University’s circuit of teaching hospitals, and outside Wits, both nationally and internationally. He is a member of the Research Committee of the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), and he previously chaired the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Cancer Control and Prevention and the National Tertiary/Quaternary Essential Medicines Committee.

On the international stage, he is the Chair of the Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Council of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), having previously been a member of ASCO’s International Affairs Committee, International Clinical Trials Workshop, and International Quality Steering Group.

Ruff has published extensively in the field of oncology with over 150 papers in peer-reviewed journals, particularly in the field of colorectal cancer. He is the recipient of many awards for research and clinical excellence during his career, including the A.G. Oettlé Medal from CANSA in 2020.

Ruff says, “I am very pleased and honoured to take over as the Chair of this important University committee. Thank you to my predecessor, Dr Clement Penny, for his excellent work and commitment in the past.”

Meet the Chairs of Wit University’s Ethics Committees

The University has ethics committees which are responsible for quality and ethical research.

The Wits HREC: Non-medical committee is chaired by Professor Jennifer Watermeyer and co-Chairs Professor Jasper Knight, Associate Professor Edmarie Pretorius, and Dr Shalini Dukhan. All research activities by staff and students at Wits requires ethics clearance from the HREC: Non-medical if it involves human participants, and if the research includes social, educational and/or psychological behaviour or perceptions, personal data required by an institution. This excludes research activities at a medical facility.

Professor Frederic Michel chairs the Wits Animal Research Ethics Committee (AREC), which is responsible for ethical research and teaching activities at Wits that involves animals.

Professor James Larkin chairs the Wits Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). Biosafety is concerned with the containment methods required when managing parasites, infectious agents and infected or potentially infected animals, tissues, or other materials. The purpose is to reduce exposure of laboratory workers, other persons, and the outside environment, to potentially hazardous agents.