The Joy of Healing – Matieland Publication 2018


Professor Mark Cotton is an NRF A-rated scientist, he is an international authority on paediatric infectious diseases, and a pioneer in the field of HIV – he was one of the first doctors in the world to treat children with antiretroviral treatment (ART).Yet, you would be hard pressed to find a more humble person.


Mark, who is head of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at Tygerberg Hospital and Director of Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Family Clinical Research Unit (FAMCRU), is more likely to pay warm tribute to his family, staff and mentors, acknowledging their role in his successes.


Read the whole article by clicking here: Matieland 2018 article.






NRF researchers

Eminent SU researchers receive NRF awards


Six eminent researchers at Stellenbosch University (SU) were honoured by the National Research Foundation (NRF) on Thursday (1 September 2016).


Proff Willem Visser (Computer Science), Paul van Helden (Biomedical Sciences), Mark Cotton, (Paediatrics and Child Health), Leonard Barbour, (Chemistry and Polymer Science), Helmut Prodinger (Mathematics) and Grant Theron (Molecular Biology and Human Genetics) were given special awards for receiving an A- or P-rating from the NRF in the 2016 round for research excellence.


A-ratings are aimed at researchers who are unequivocally acknowledged by their peers as leading international scholars in their respective fields for the high quality and impact of recent research outputs. Researchers with a P-rating have demonstrated the potential of becoming future international leaders in their field based on exceptional research performance and output early in their careers.


Visser, Van Helden, Cotton, Barbour and Prodinger are A-rated researchers, while Theron received a P-rating. Prodinger received four A-ratings in a row.


Visser is doing research about the test and analysis of computer software and also the finding of bugs in such software, while Van Helden focuses on the use of modern molecular biological techniques to diagnose drug resistant Tuberculosis (TB), especially in developing countries.


Cotton is an internationally acclaimed specialist in the field of paediatric infectious diseases with extensive experience in managing HIV-infected children. He has been a member of the World Health Organisation technical task teams on HIV staging, ART and guidelines for TB in children since 2004.


Barber specialise in functional nanostructured materials, where he studies the response of new materials – specifically crystals – to external factors such as heat, light or pressure. His work is relevant to the development of new materials for a cleaner environment.


Prodinger is one of South Africa’s and the world’s leading researchers in the analysis of algorithms and combinatorics. He focuses on digital searchers and expansions that play a crucial role in different areas of computer science.


Theron’s research interest lies in the diagnosis, epidemiology and transmission of TB. His most prominent scientific achievements have centred on the feasibility, accuracy and impact of “Xpert”, a ground-breaking new DNA-based test for TB, which he showed could be performed at a clinical level by minimally trained personnel.


Commenting on the awards, Dr Therina Theron, Senior Director: Research and Innovation at SU, said the institution is extremely proud of the accomplishments of our award winners.


“We realise how much dedication and commitment it requires to achieve these ratings and we are pleased by the international recognition of their research excellence”.


(Photo: Dr Therina Theron with proff Prodinger, Cotton and Visser at the awards ceremony. Proff Van Helden, Barbour and Theron could not attend the event.)



FAM-CRU treats patients with year-end picnic



Some of the staff members who worked hard to make this day possible were, (at the back from the left) Prof Mark Cotton, Sonja Pieterse, Anita Janse van Rensburg, Jackie Martin, Jacky Crisp and Wilma Orange. In front from the left: Marchalaine Hendricks, Marietjie Bester, Candice Makola, Lindee Ganger, Ronelle Arendze and Desmien Bagus.


More than 500 children and their parents celebrated the end of 2015 with a fun-filled picnic specially organised by staff of the FAM-CRU (formerly KID-CRU) research unit at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Stellenbosch University.


The event was held at the Dutch Reformed Church in De la Haye, Bellville and the celebrations included gifts being exchanged, jumping castles, plenty of food and music. The children and their parents each received a gift and food parcel to take home.
“The FAM-CRU team’s artistry was evident in the happy, brightly painted children’s faces,” said Prof Mark Cotton, the Director of the unit.


Staff members form close bonds with the patients and their parents, with whom they have shared a journey over many years. “We see the patients regularly and build good relations with them,” says Anita Janse van Rensburg, a project manager at FAM-CRU. “We therefore decided to spoil them with a year-end party.”


Planning began in 2014 and committee members worked non-stop throughout the year to raise the necessary funds. They managed to raise just over R60 000 with ‘white elephant’ sales, two fêtes, a regular tuck shop and Friday afternoon food sales.


Learners from Pinehurst Primary entertained the audience with a choir performance. Their Grade 7 class donated R4 000 towards the event, as well as gifts including colouring books, balls and puzzles.


The original Children’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit (KID-CRU) unit officially opened in September 2003, although the first trial had already begun in December 2002.


“Our focus has always been HIV-affected children and their families,” said Cotton. “In January 2014, we also began trials for adults, thus we changed our name to FAM-CRU (Family Clinical Research Unit).” This expansion was made possible with a new affiliation to the NIH-sponsored AIDS Clinical Trial Group (ACTG) in the United States.
“Children who enrolled in studies from 2005 are still in our care and are now participating in our adult research studies,” said Cotton.


“During the event, some of us reflected on the long journey from the 1990’s, when no treatment was available and contrasted our memories to the many happy, hopeful and healthy faces of the children and their parents at the picnic,” Cotton remarked with a hint of nostalgia.




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