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Inspirational Monday: The southern African scientists who discovered the Omicron variant

An illustration of Covid-19. Picture: Pixabay

An illustration of Covid-19. Picture: Pixabay

Published Jun 6, 2022


In the midst of understandable worldwide panic, scientists in southern Africa dedicated themselves to studying, and identifying new mutations of Covid-19 that emerged.

In South Africa, Professor Tulio de Oliveira has been credited as leading the team that discovered the Omicron Covid-19 virus in November last year.

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Simultaneously, Dr Sikhulile Moyo made the same troubling find in Botswana.

Recently, both the esteemed scientists made this year's TIME 100, a list that identifies and examines the individuals whose ideas, talent and discoveries are transforming world.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira

Professor Tulio de Oliveira. Picture: Twitter

Professor De Oliveira, 46, holds a PhD in Health Sciences from UKZN's Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine. The Brazilian native is a bio-informatics scientist, with over 20 years of experience in the field.

He is also the head of Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation and UKZN's Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform.

In May, De Oliveira presented at the Nobel Symposium of Medicine in Sweden and will be the keynote speaker at the first Nobel Symposium in Africa, which will take place in Stellenbosch.

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This will make the university the first to achieve this feat outside of the Nordic country.

“In a country like South Africa, where a lot of the time people are very good at highlighting their distances and differences, it’s important to highlight what we can achieve when we collaborate for the greater good,” he said.

He has worked with the University of Oxford, the University College London, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Washington.

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Dr Sikhulile Moyo

Dr Sikhulile Moyo. Picture: File

Dr Moyo, a Zimbabwean native, completed his PhD in Medical virology at Stellenbosch University. Coincidentally, De Oliveira was one of his professors.

He is the laboratory director of The Botswana–Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership and a research associate at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

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As a Christian, Moyo credits the grace of God for making the TIME 100 list. “The only way we can succeed is by collaborating and continuously sharing ideas. Success in science comes through genuine collaboration,” said Moyo.