South African Medical Research Council


The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) was established in 1969 to conduct and fund health research, health innovation, development, and research translation. The SAMRC focuses on the top 10 causes of mortality, morbidity, disability, and associated risk factors. The scope of research includes laboratory investigations, preclinical and clinical research, and public health studies.

As part of the GloPID-R Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness Network, the SAMRC is well positioned to enable research collaboration and excellence among scientists on the African continent to respond to global health challenges. For example, the SAMRC is funding health research to develop a rapid point-of-care (POC) diagnostic assay for Ebola virus infection. The development of POC tests would be a medical innovation that would vastly improve the rapid detection of infected patients, clinical decisions, and far more efficient containment measures and patient management. This technology, if successful, would serve as the blueprint for other infection control measures and tools of international public health threats.

Genomics and personalised medicine

In July 2019, the SAMRC launched a genomics research centre in partnership with the Beijing Genomics Institute. The Centre conducts genomics research to address the growing disease burden of South Africa and builds towards a future where 4IR is a major component in African healthcare.

More than 50 whole genome experiments have been conducted, and the SAMRC – together with the DSI – has made a number of awards to help in understanding the basis of treatment failure for non-communicable disease treatments in Africa; and setting up a pilot project around HIV elite controllers, where genetics are believed to be a major contributing factor in disease management.

Even in this state of flux, the SAMRC remains responsive to change, continuing its journey of growth and innovation.

The SAMRC is engaged in a wide spectrum of research areas related to COVID- 19.1)


Executive Board

The chair and co-chairs are elected by our members during the Annual General Assembly. Chairs serve three years with the option to renew for a second term.

Charu Kaushic - Chair Scientific Director, Institute of Infection & Immunity, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

Jeremy Farrar - Director, Wellcome Trust

Barbara Kerstiens - Head of Unit, Research & Innovation DG, European Commission

Shoji Miyagawa - Former Managing Director, Department of Innovation & Clinical Research Center Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED)

Charles Shey Wiysonge - Senior Director at the South African, Medical Research Council (SAMRC)

Yazdan Yazdanpanah - Director, INSERM-ANRS Emerging Infectious Diseases Agency

The GloPID-R Secretariat provides scientific, strategic, organizational, financial and administrative support for the Executive Board and our members. It oversees GloPID-R communications, facilitating information sharing among our members and stakeholders while raising visibility of our global coalition and its activities.

Hans-Eckhardt Hagen - Scientific and Advocacy Director

Lisa Mills - Communication Officer

Nicolas Pulik - Regional Development Officer

Kristina Ruze - Administrative & Events Manager

Mary Shaffer - Communication and Advocacy Manager

Jason Soffe - Digital Communications Manager

Richard Vaux - Head of Operations

Scientific Secretariat -

Emilia Antonio - Research & Policy Officer

Isabel Foster - Research & Policy Officer

Susan Khader - Research & Policy Officer

Alice Norton - Scientific Manager

Louise Sigfrid - Clinical Research Specialist

Moyna de Sélincourt - Administrative Assistant 2)

Pandemic Policy Influence

A leading data point used to motivate the South African lockdowns in 2020 was provided by the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium (SACMC). In March, the SACMC informed the government that if the country didn’t lock down, up to 351,000 people would die from Covid-19 in the first wave and the health system would be overwhelmed.

Yet again, Salim S Abdool Karim is at the centre of the apparently independent bodies who made forecasts and recommendations in unison. Notably, one of CAPRISA’s partners, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), coordinated with the Department of Health on the SACMC.

The SACMC model, based on their National Covid-19 Epi Model (NCEM), proved to be overblown and flawed. Instead of the predicted 351,000 deaths, around 20,000 people died in the first wave and the field hospitals built to handle the expected crisis remained unused (it is important to view this statistic in light of research on lockdown deaths described by Jonathan Engler). Instead, schooling and economic activity were brought to a standstill and hundreds of thousands of citizens were arrested for breaking restriction protocols.

Equally, this predictive failure of the models can in no way be attributed to lockdown success. Professor Shabir Madhi, director of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), told Sky News in January 2021 that the original hard lockdown had inadvertently created mass transmission and immunity which actually benefited the country in subsequent ‘waves’. 3)

Gates Foundation NGO Network

The SAMRC is connected to CAPRISA in several ways: Karim served as president and CEO there between 2012 and 2014. His wife, Quarraisha Abdool Karim, is currently the Deputy Chair of the SAMRC’s Council. The connection between the two organisations extends to funding: the SAMRC and the government pay CAPRISA to run multiple drug and vaccine trials.

Like almost all scientific institutions that promote Covid-19 restrictions and vaccines, the SAMRC has received funding from vaccine enthusiasts, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Since 2006, the BMGF has granted the SAMRC over $23 million, including $3.7 million committed since June 2021. 4)

It is no wonder that the SAMRC is so heavily involved in promoting vaccines. In February 2021, the SAMRC joined forces with CAPRISA, the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation (Tutu Foundation, itself a $12.7 million grant recipient from the BMGF in August 2021), Janssen and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to run a trial for the latter’s Covid-19 vaccine.

Called the Sisonke Study, this vaccine trial was outsourced to CAPRISA by Professor Glenda Gray, the current president and CEO of the SAMRC. She was granted funding by Janssen, the pharmaceutical arm of J&J, and by the BMGF to trial the J&J vaccine. 5)

Vaccine Mandates Advocacy

Should anti-vaxxers working in key sectors submit to mandatory weekly Covid-19 tests?

By Estelle Ellis• 25 August 2021 “Healthcare is what I know best,” said Salim S Abdool Karim. “Within the healthcare setting, you are interacting with the most vulnerable in society… we cannot be placing them at risk. That is just too high a risk… It has to be mandatory. In the US, it is now mandatory in many, many healthcare settings.”

He said questions will be asked if people are forced to do something they do not want to do, and insist on their right to bodily integrity.

“I think the answer to that is that your right to bodily integrity is not absolute. It has to be viewed in relation to the challenges it poses to highly vulnerable people. In this particular instance, if you choose not to be vaccinated, either find a low-risk job or you come with a negative test once a week. I don’t believe the government should make it compulsory. I believe it is a sector or institutional decision.

“There are two key criteria: individuals who work in congregate settings and are working in close proximity to each other. For example, a waiter in a restaurant is putting everybody at very high risk because people are not wearing masks and they are in a congregate setting.”

Abdool Karim also mentioned prison staff and teachers as examples.

“If you take people who attend to the public in the Home Affairs office, they are interacting directly with the public. They need to be vaccinated. If you make a list of sectors that meet that type of criteria, you will have a good justification for mandatory vaccinations,” he said. 6)

Back to top