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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 on the team is available at the Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform website.


Pharmacy Practice

The division of Pharmacy Practice provides students with the knowledge on clinical, social and administrative skills associated with the fluid practice of pharmacy. Clinical skills such as pharmaceutical care processes and rational usage of drugs, good pharmacy practice, good warehouse practice, good clinical practice and the use of complementary medicines are taught in order to provide the best quality of life for patients.

Social skills such as Communication Skills and Business Management Principles (within the PharmApprentice Program) are developed in order to create an informed, professional and empathic pharmacist graduate. Administrative skills are taught through our pharmaceutical business apprentice program and pharmacy management, drug supply management and the development of practice policy in order to provide our pharmacy students with the professional edge required to effectively manage their profession and their positions in practice.

Training in ethics and principles of law are taught from the second year of Pharmacy Practice and include subjects such as The Medicines and Related Substances Act, Pharmacy Act, Good Pharmacy Practice, Labour Laws, Scheduling and other allied health professional laws such as The Health Professions Act and Nursing Acts. Specialist skills courses are also offered in the fourth year of Pharmacy Practice and include subjects such as regulatory affairs and good clinical practice.

Research within the division focuses on the legalization of Marijuana within the South African context for medicinal purposes, Telepharmacy and Telemedicine, investigating the use of technology and software development for pharmacy practice, drug utilization in the public sector by focusing on effective patient education and overall patient care, the effectiveness of public health treatments in the management of patient health, the evaluation of patient attitudes to healthcare and how best to overcome the obstacles associated with public health. Other areas of research interest include the changing and developing roles of pharmacists in society, including the broad field of clinical pharmacy and the logistics and legalities of Primary Care Drug Therapy (PCDT).

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Clinical Pharmacy

The division of Clinical Pharmacy within the Department provides students with the knowledge on selecting the best drug based on the indication, dosing, safety and efficacy. It is a patient-centered and robust course that provides future pharmacists with an advanced clinical foundation to enable them to provide pharmacotherapeutic knowledge in appropriate clinical environments.

It is a patient-centered division invested in several studies that focus on the therapeutic practices of clinicians and pharmacists in the public and private health sector. Research within the division includes investigating the downstream costs of 'Over The Counter (OTC)' medicine usage in medical aid schemes in South Africa and the use of antibiotics and stewardship practices in the public sector. Other areas include HIV Home Testing: 'To Test or Not to Test'.

The team also explores elucidating arguments for and against self-testing for HIV and delivery of an evidence-based review to determine if the HIV home test is an acceptable and feasible testing alternative as well as the description of culture and sensitivity testing and antimicrobial susceptibility in ICU wards at our academic hospitals in the public sector.

The supervision of postgraduate research in the area of Pharmacovigilance, Rational Drug Use and Pharmacy Education, particularly in interprofessional education as well as the automation of the pharmacy environment and the Primary Care Drug Therapy (PCDT) short course is also spearheaded by the division.


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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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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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