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Research Areas

Research Diversity - Open for Innovation - Driven by Science - Shaping the Future

Research in the pharmaceutical sciences may focus on a particular discipline. Our research encompasses key areas of the pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacology research value chain. Many projects are underway by our experts whose work has attracted significant research grant support and awards from the university, government and pharmaceutical industry. These grants provide not only the funding for laboratory consumables and equipment but also stipends and tuition fees for our postdoctoral fellows and postgraduates exposed to cutting-edge research.

Did You Know?

  • We work with experts in allied research disciplines (Engineering, Molecular Biology, Biomaterials)
  • We are leaders in training and mentoring pharmacy postdocs and postgraduates in South Africa
  • We are a major contributor to ISI-accredited pharmaceutical research publications in South Africa
  • We are always open for innovation to strengthen links with other experts for long-term partnership
  • We collaborate with top researchers at universities and research institutes on every continent
  • We are ranked #1 by subject in the QS Global Rankings of all pharmacy schools in South Africa
  • We present research regularly at peer-reviewed conferences with our students for career boosting
  • We provide research-led education and contribute to the health sector by pharmaceutical innovation
  • We are involved and committed to diverse research in the area of pharmacy and pharmacology
Pharmaceutics, Drug Delivery, Nanomedicine, Biomaterials and 3D BioPrinting

This area of research focuses on the design of Pharmaceutical Biomaterials and Polymer-Engineered Drug Delivery Systems as well as Formulation Development, Evaluation and Optimization. The work is undertaken within the Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform Research Unit (WADDP). The WADDP team is highly innovative and involved in the development of novel commercializable drug delivery technologies specifically driven towards innovation in nanomedicines, targeted drug delivery, stimuli-responsive platforms, 3D bioprinting, site-specific drug delivery and a host of other technologies. These drug delivery inventions may be warranted in the treatment of various diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders, cancers, chronic inflammation, HIV, tuberculosis, STIs, spinal cord injury, ocular diseases, CNS diseases, wound healing, neuropathic pain, chronotherapeutic disorders and infections. The team has state-of-the-art labs equipped with the most cutting-edge instruments. Further information is available under the Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform link.

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Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacy Practice

The research focus of the Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy Program is predominantly on industrial and trade policy and its relationship to pharmaceutical policy. Publications on matters pertaining to the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority, leadership, skills development strategies, human resource management, continuing professional development, genomics, ethical decision making, managed health care, transformation, pharmaceutical policy, and globalization have also been made. Research is also undertaken on the effect of ARVs on the quality of life of HIV patients as well as Antibiotic Stewardship. The research involves developing and validating a Quality of Life (QoL) Instrument that is sensitive to South African cultures, practices and lifestyles. This work is being developed in order to assist Primary Health Care workers in identifying key signs and symptoms of adverse drug reactions associated with the use of ARVs and antibiotics and will be applied in resource-limited settings.

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Pharmaceutical Microbiology

Pharmaceutical Microbiology research within the department is at the forefront. Prof. Sandy van Vuuren's team is highly productive and have achieved the following among many other accolades:

  • Supervised 34 postgraduates to the completion of their degree
  • Hosted 45 postgraduates from various teaching institutions (University of Johannesburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Rhodes, Tshwane University of Technology, North West University and Yaounde University, Cameroon)
  • Hosted two postdoctoral fellows
  • Published 115 publications (all ISI-accredited) (last updated March 2017)
  • 178 conference contributions (57 international and 121 national) (last updated March 2017)
  • Delivered 10 keynote or plenary lectures at both national and international level
  • Prof. van Vuuren holds a C1 NRF rating and currently serves on the Editorial Board for the journal “South African Journal of Botany” as well as “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine”. She has also served as an examiner for 17 Masters and 4 PhD dissertations and is on the Scientific committee for the International Symposium on Essential Oils


This field of research focuses on four key areas namely Natural Products, Formulation of Indigenous Medicines, Toxicity and Mutanagicity, as well as Contamination Control. Analytical techniques are used to isolate and analyze the extracts. Research is also directed towards microbial viability studies with emphasis on investigating medicinal aromatic plants used in African traditional healing.

 Natural ProductsNatural Products

  • Antimicrobial correlation with traditional use
  • Studies on pathogens related to relevant diseases
  • Antimicrobial combination studies - interaction between molecules, plants from different species, interactions between ingredients within a formulation as well as interactions between natural products and conventional antimicrobials
  • Structure activity relationships
  • Endophytes and antimicrobial activity
  • Essential oils (chemistry and antimicrobial activities






  •  Probiotics
  • Infectious diseases
  • Wound healing
  • Combination studies with an anti-infective outcome
  • Validation of efficacy of formulation with antimicrobial potential





Toxicity and MutanagicityMicrobe

  • Brine shrimp assay
  • Salmonella Ames test
  • Correlation with antimicrobial activity






Contamination ControlBacilli

  • Contamination in plants
  • Nebulizer contamination in hospitals
  • Quality control
  • Air sampling






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Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Molecular Synthesis

In the field research is being directed towards a number of different approaches to the synthesis, formulation and delivery of nanocrystals in collaboration with our WADDP Research Unit. Furthermore, modification of the physicochemical and physicomechanical properties of various polymeric materials is undertaken through a series of complex synthetic reactions encompassing organic and analytical chemistry for the purposes of designing novel biomaterials for various applications.

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Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology

This research area focuses on drug usage in Managed Health Care settings, Evidence-Based Medicine and Pharmacoeconomics. In experimental pharmacology, psychopharmacology is becoming an increasingly important sub-discipline in the field of pharmacology. This research area focuses on the molecular mechanism of action of antidepressants in patients with atypical depression. Research is also undertaken on various aspects of the Plasmodium protozoa, the causative organism in malaria to combat drug resistance with a renewed interest in novel compounds that may possess antimalarial properties. Various derivatives of the hydroxyquinolines, structurally diverse nucleoside phosphonic acids and other novel compounds are being evaluated with promising inhibitory activities. Novel drugs are also being used to interrupt the life cycle of the malaria parasite by inhibiting gametocytogenesis and various unique enzymes in Plasmodium cell cycle.

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