Durban scientist Professor Jerry Coovadia.

Durban - The National Research Foundation has bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award on distinguished Durban scientist Professor Jerry Coovadia.

The foundation, and Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, on Thursday honoured top researchers at an awards ceremony in Joburg.

Coovadia was one of two recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award, the foundation’s most prestigious accolade.

He is a director at Maternal, Adolescent and Child Health Systems, which supports the KZN Health Department in its provision of HIV and TB treatment and prevention.

Coovadia is also the chairman of the board of the KwaZulu-Natal Children’s Hospital Trust, Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal, and associate scientific director at the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa.

He has published 338 papers on the factors which cause morbidity, disability and mortality among Africa’s children.

His mantel also boasts the Silver Medal for Excellence in Research from the Medical Research Council, and the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights.

Fifteen years ago, it was Coovadia and Professor Anna Coutsoudis, in their groundbreaking study, who discovered that the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV was significantly lower if mothers exclusively breast-fed for the first four months of the child’s life.

On Thursday, the other recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award was University of Cape Town’s Professor Lionel Opie.

In honouring Coovadia and Opie, Pandor said: “I am in awe of your work and I thank you, on behalf of the South African people, from the bottom of my heart.”

Other leading researchers were also celebrated. The foundation takes into account the quality and impact of the contribution that the researchers make in their field of study.

The outgoing foundation chief executive and newly appointed UKZN vice-chancellor Albert van Jaarsveld said: “With the success of research comes the acknowledgement of those who have committed their careers to pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge.”

The foundation’s rating system is used to evaluate researchers, and is based on peer reviews.

UKZN’s Professor Fernando Albericio was awarded an A2 rating.

A-rated researchers are unequivocally recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their field for the high quality and impact of their research outputs.

The Mercury