SAMRC Scientific Merit Awards: Prof Tulio de Oliveira is awarded a Gold Medal

The South African Medical Research Council strongly supports excellence in health research and has established a set of medal awards to recognise world-class science. The Awards are among South Africa’s most prestigious and are dedicated to contributions to health research in South Africa.

Prof Tulio de Oliveira

An attempt in 2022 to describe Professor Tulio de Oliveira in one sentence would probably read something like 'the man who facilitated the identification of the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern – Beta and Omicron in South Africa.'

But for a world-renowned bioinformatics scientist, with over 20 years' experience working and conducting clinic-based and population-based research, the description does not even begin to scratch the surface to capture his journey.

Prof. Tulio de Oliveira’s journey began when he received his BSc at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil, followed by MSc and PhD at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. He was a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, U.K. from 2004 to 2006 and a Newton Advanced Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (WTSI) and at the University of Edinburgh from 2015-2019. In 2015, he became a Professor in the School of Laboratory Medicine & Medical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa and in 2018 an Associate Professor on Global Health at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA.

Professor De Oliveira wears different leadership hats at different times and places – including but not limited to Professor of Bioinformatics, School for Data Science and Computational Thinking, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University; and Director of the newly-established Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), which is also housed at the same University.

He is the Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation & Sequencing Platform (KRISP), and a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) – both these are close-associate organisations of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) that are based in Durban, South Africa.

Throughout his career, Prof. de Oliveira has worked with viral outbreaks, including HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Chikungunya, Dengue, SARS-CoV-2, Zika, and Yellow Fever Virus. Prof. de Oliveira has more than 150 publications, with many of them in, the top scientific journals such as Nature, Science and Lancet.

Most recently, Prof De Oliveira has cemented his place as of the top scientists in the forefront of the country’s fight against Covid-19 since it hit our shores – notably, he collaborated with leading research organizations to create the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA). This was funded largely by the SAMRC, along with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) to respond to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Professor de Oliveira has a long-standing relationship with the that spans about 15 years – all his bioinformatics servers are housed at the SAMRC. He has been the recipient of several SAMRC grant awards, including the 5–year Flagship Programme grant to understand the causes and consequences of HIV transmission.

News date: 2022-04-01