PHOTO: Supplied/ University of Cape Town (UCT)

CAPE TOWN - The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has mourned the death of Professor Bongani Mayosi, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town.

Mayosi's death by suicide on July 27 shocked the country as he was regarded as a giant in the medical fraternity. 

A team of scientists, led by Mayosi, last year made headlines by announcing the discovery of a new gene that is the cause of sudden death in young people and athletes.

The SAMRC, in a statement, said: "This major breakthrough was a result of about 20 years of monitoring a South African family affected by the disorder."

The gene called CDH2 causes Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricle Cardiomyopathy (ARVC) and is a genetic disorder that predisposes young people to cardiac arrest. 

The SAMRC board chairperson, Professor Mike Sathekge, said: "We are truly saddened by the loss of Prof Mayosi, who dedicated his life to save the lives of others."

Professor Glenda Gray, President and CEO of the SAMRC, said: "I am devastated by his passing. Bongani was passionate about building science capacity in South Africa and his research has made tremendous impact for health. My heart-felt condolences to his wife, Professor Nonhlanhla Khumalo, his daughters, and the Mayosi family."

Mayosi was the the principal investigator with Professor Hugh Watkins of Oxford University on the project - African cardiomyopathy and myocarditis registry programme - IMHOTEP Study, a multi-centre, multi-national hospital-based prospective study of the clinical characteristics, causes, treatment, and outcome of cardiomyopathies and myocarditis in children and adults from referral centres in Africa.

This project is a partnership between the SAMRC, the National Department of Health (NDoH) and UK Medical Research Council. 

"Professor Mayosi, a National Research Foundation A-rated scientist, received the country’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver) in 2009. He also received the prestigious SAMRC career development award as a young scientist and jointly with Walter Sisulu University was leading a SAMRC flagship project that is investigating the management of pericarditis associated with tuberculosis," said the SAMRC.

Mayosi, over the past 15 years, competed successfully for several other grants from the SAMRC, including self-initiated research grants and recently a SAMRC-Forte joint grant with the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. 

"He had a strong affinity to the SAMRC and worked closely with several staff on a number of initiatives.  He led the way in establishing the NDoH/SAMRC National Health Scholars Programme in 2012. His vision for the National Health Scholars Programme resulted in the creation of a benchmark for postgraduate funding provided to over 80 young South Africans to date. Prof Mayosi provided leadership for the International Course on Research Methodology for about 30 young cardiovascular and metabolic disease researchers in 2010 and The International Ten Day Teaching Seminars in Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in 2011," added the SAMRC. 

He was a member of the Academy of Science and a former President of the College of Physicians of South Africa. 

Elected to the US National Academy of Medicine, Mayosi’s published work extends to over 250 peer-reviewed articles. In 2016, Professor Mayosi received the SAMRC Platinum Scientific Merit Award for a lifetime of exemplary scientific achievement. 

"He was honoured both locally and abroad and was an expert in poverty-related cardiac disease including rheumatic fever and tuberculous pericarditis, as well as cardiomyopathy," said the SAMRC.

African News Agency (ANA)