Re­search is not a lux­ury’, says UCT’s Kelly Chibale, one of For­tune Magazine’s 50 great­est lead­ers

Zambian Business Times - - FRONT PAGE -

The founder and di­rec­tor of Africa’s first in­te­grated drug dis­cov­ery cen­tre‚ Prof Kelly Chibale‚ has been named as one of For­tune magazine’s 50 World’s Great­est Lead­ers for 2018. Chibale‚ whose H3D cen­tre at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town pioneers world­class drug dis­cov­ery in Africa‚ has also be­come known for his piv­otal work on malaria. He was in­cluded in For­tune magazine’s an­nual list of “in­flu­en­tial fig­ures we ad­mire most”. Chibale shares the hon­our with lead­ers rang­ing from Bill and Melinda Gates to the pres­i­dents of France and South Korea — Em­manuel Macron and Moon Jae-in — as well as ten­nis player Ser­ena Wil­liams‚ Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook and the #Me-Too move­ment. Chibale said his in­clu­sion on the list was “to­tally un­ex­pected and over­whelm­ing. I am so grate­ful to God for this recog­ni­tion on the global stage”. For­tune magazine said its list looked at all sec­tors of so­ci­ety to find lead­ers “who are us­ing their power and in­flu­ence to make the world a bet­ter place”. For­tune magazine se­lected Chibale for his pioneer­ing work in de­vel­op­ing in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port sci­en­tific re­search. The Zam­bian-born sci­en­tist founded H3D at UCT in 2010 and of­fi­cially launched it in 2011. Start­ing out with a hand­ful of re­searchers‚ he has grown H3D into a world-class cen­tre‚ with more than 60 re­searchers in ad­di­tion to ap­prox­i­mately 30 post­grad­u­ate (MSc and PhD) re­search stu­dents and post­doc­toral fel­lows in his aca­demic group. His team of more than 90 re­searchers work out of state-of-the-art fa­cil­i­ties at UCT thanks to var­i­ous part­ner­ships‚ in­clud­ing the Gates Foun­da­tion‚ Medicines for Malaria Ven­ture‚ No­var­tis and the South African gov­ern­ment. H3D mainly works in the fields of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and malaria and al­ready has a po­ten­tial drug for malaria in hu­man tri­als. Chibale said he hoped H3D would con­trib­ute to a global pipe­line of new medicines for malaria and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis able to cir­cum­vent drug re­sis­tance. He said he was in­spired by con­fronting Afro-pes­simism and de­bunk­ing the myth that Africa could not be a source of health in­no­va­tion. “We need to demon­strate that Africa has more to of­fer than the mere op­por­tu­nity for hu­man clin­i­cal tri­als. Africa has largely been a re­cip­i­ent of West­ern re­search. It is time for Africa to also con­trib­ute re­search so that peo­ple from other con­ti­nents can also ben­e­fit. The chal­lenges we are try­ing to ad­dress in Africa are not just African chal­lenges but hu­man chal­lenges. In this way Africa can earn re­spect.” Chibale is a firm ad­vo­cate of the wide­spread ben­e­fits of re­search. “Re­search is not a lux­ury. It pro­vides so­lu­tions‚ cre­ates jobs and in­fra­struc­ture‚ builds ca­pac­ity as well as ex­per­tise‚ at­tracts for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment‚ can seed an in­dus­try and con­trib­utes to re­vers­ing the brain drain.” Chibale said he was par­tic­u­larly hon­oured to be in­cluded on the For­tune list with Bill and Melinda Gates who have co-founded the Gates Foun­da­tion and com­mit­ted sub­stan­tial re­sources to fight­ing the scourge of malaria‚ tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and other in­fec­tious dis­eases. “Not only are Bill and Melinda im­mense con­trib­u­tors to the recog­ni­tion I have re­ceived through the sup­port of our H3D work from their foun­da­tion over many years‚ they are both tremen­dous in­spi­ra­tional and ex­em­plary role mod­els of lead­ers who serve oth­ers. “Although I have no right to tell African bil­lion­aires and mil­lion­aires how they should use their money‚ I would like them to con­sider fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple set by Bill and Melinda by in­vest­ing in sci­en­tific re­search in Africa.” With World Malaria Day com­ing up on April 25‚ Chibale said it was im­per­a­tive to work to­wards com­bat­ing malaria. “Africa is no longer just a place to con­duct hu­man malaria clin­i­cal tri­als. Africa is now also a place for malaria drug dis­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment. It is im­por­tant to com­bat malaria‚ not just be­cause of the un­ac­cept­ably high num­bers of deaths it is re­spon­si­ble for‚ es­pe­cially among our chil­dren‚ but also be­cause malaria con­tin­ues to choke eco­nomic growth on the con­ti­nent.” Chibale’s life story is in­spir­ing. He grew up in ex­treme poverty in vil­lages and town­ships in Zam­bia. His home had no elec­tric­ity or run­ning wa­ter and he shared a sin­gle bed in a tiny room with his brother. But his per­se­ver­ance and faith pro­pelled him to reach his goals. “It’s not how you start‚ but how you end up that mat­ters‚“said Chibale. He en­cour­aged peo­ple to pur­sue their dreams and to make the most of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

Prof Kelly Chibale at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town.

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