Univen’s Dr Ntakadzeni Edwin Madala, who walked away with one of the National Research Foundation’s top awards. Photo supplied.
Date: 30 September 2019 By:
Dr Ntakadzeni Edwin Madala, senior lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Venda (Univen), did the university proud by scooping up a top award during the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) award ceremony that took place on 12 September at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West.
Dr Madala was awarded a prestigious NRF award for Early career/Emerging Researcher of the Year. Among his research works, Dr Madala dedicated most of his time conducting an in-depth biological and chemical characterisation of active, naturally occurring isomers of plant metabolites with various properties against diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cardiovascular disease.
“This award validates my ambitions of becoming a world-renowned analytical biochemist and it gives me pleasure to see scientists from historically disadvantaged institutions being recognized by reputable national structures such as the NRF. I wish the award could encourage my colleagues here at Univen to regard quality over quantity when it comes to research activities,” said Dr Madala.
Dr Madala’s research focuses on analytical methods for the extraction and precise identification of metabolites from plants with known medicinal applications. He specialises in the development of separation techniques for precise identification of structurally related natural products (isomers). He obtained his PhD in Analytical Biochemistry from the University of Johannesburg in 2012 and immediately initiated a research group at the same institution. This research group has developed mass-spectrometric methods to differentiate isomers in collaboration with the CSIR, the PNNL (USA) and the University of Surrey. This led to the development of advanced analytical methods to discriminate biologically active isomers with anti-HIV properties isolated from plants.
Dr Madala’s research achievements led to the development of two instruments. The first instrument is used for isolation/extraction of plant-derived pharmacological compounds without the use of organic solvents. The second instrument, a UV photochemical reactor, allows for artificial amplification of metabolites through UV-induced geometrical isomerisation of photo-switchable drug candidates in plants.
Since joining Univen in 2018, Dr Madala has published numerous research articles, book chapters and conference proceedings in internationally renowned journals. Univen prides itself on Dr Madala’s achievement. “I encourage other staff members, especially young academics, to follow in the footsteps of Dr Madala. The University of Venda is so grateful to have academics and researchers of Dr Madala’s competence,” said the university’s vice-chancellor and principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni. (Information and photo supplied by Univen).