Director of the Research Unit in Bioinformatics (RUBi) and Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Rhodes University, South Africa

Özlem received her BSc degree in Physics from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey. Then she moved to the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the same University for her MSc degree. She obtained her PhD from Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics and Free University, Berlin, Germany in 2003. While doing her PhD, Özlem became interested in structural biology, and during her postdoctoral positions (Texas University, USA; University of Western Cape and University of Pretoria, South Africa) she gained experience in structural bioinformatics as well as structural biology. In October 2009, Özlem took up a senior lecturer position at Rhodes University, South Africa. She initiated a one-year MSc programme in bioinformatics by coursework and research thesis in 2011, which was the first such programme in Africa, and established Research Unit in Bioinformatics (RUBi) in 2013. Since joining Rhodes University, Özlem has graduated 16 PhD students, of whom she was main supervisor to 13, and over 40 MSc students. She has over 80 peer-reviewed articles in internationally accredited journals including.

Özlem was co-founder and the first president of the South African Society for Bioinformatics (SASBi) (September 2012 – October 2014), and mentor to SASBi Student Society (October 2014 – September 2016). During her education and career, Özlem received numerous fellowships and awards, including Turkish Government Education Scholarship (Turkey), British Council Research Scholarship (UK), Monbusho Research Student Scholarship (Japan), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) PhD fellowship (Germany), NRF Free-Standing Postdoctoral Fellowship (South Africa) and Claude Leon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (South Africa), Rhodes University Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Award (2020). Özlem is honorary member of Golden Key (since 2019).

Özlem’s broad research interest is structural bioinformatics and its applications to drug discovery related projects. As part of the COVIDRUG-AFRICA Consortium, her group is working on spike S2 protein and main protease (3CLpro or Mpro) to understand the effects of evolutionary mutations that are detected in Africa to identify effective inhibitors.

Consortium Members


Founder of the Antimicrobial & Biocontrol Agents Unit at the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon.

Professor Fabrice F. Boyom completed his undergraduate degree in Botany, his MSc and PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Yaoundé. Thereafter, Prof. Boyom completed his postdoctoral studies in chemistry and pharmacology of biomolecules funded by the French Government Fellowships at the University of Montpellier 2, France (1993; 2000-2002), and in antimalarial drug discovery supported by the Senior Fulbright Scholarship at the University of California, San Francisco, USA (2002-2003) where he had much training in important aspects of drug discovery against infectious diseases including, but not limited to, bio-guided phytochemistry, cells/parasites culture, in vitro/in vivo drug screening, ethical considerations and animal welfare in biomedical research. He also attended the Wellcome Trust Advanced Course on “Practical aspects of small molecule drug discovery: at the interface of biology, chemistry and pharmacology”. 29 June–4 July 2008, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge, UK. Prof. Boyom is currently a Full Professor of Biochemistry (since 2015) and Founder of the Antimicrobial & Biocontrol Agents Unit (AmBcAU), University of Yaounde 1, Cameroon.

To achieve a critical pool of young researchers who will continue the drug discovery research in Africa, Dr. Boyom has successfully completed the training of 24 Ph.D. students and over 50 Masters students in the fields of Biochemistry of natural products and drug discovery research against major infectious diseases, including malaria, leishmaniasis, HAT and amoebiasis. He has published more than 200 research papers in peer-reviewed journals with over 2000 citations. He also endeavors as editorial board member and reviewer for many high standards peer-reviewed journals.

As part of the COVIDRUG-AFRICA Consortium, his group is establishing protein assay systems for the SARS-CoV-2 cysteine protease assays to screen inhibitors that are identified via computational studies.


Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Rhodes University, NRF/DST SARChI Chair in Molecular and Cellular Biology of the Eukaryotic Stress Response and Director of the Biomedical Biotechnology Research Unit (BioBRU).

Adrienne Edkins completed her undergraduate, Honours and MSc degrees at Rhodes University and her PhD degree with Bill Cushley at Glasgow University in cellular biochemistry on the Wellcome Trust Four Year PhD fellowship in Molecular Basis of Disease. In recognition of her research, Adrienne was awarded the Rhodes University VC Distinguished Research Medal (2015) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) South African Women in Science (SAWiSA) Award for Distinguished Young Scientist in the Natural/Engineering Sciences (2018). She holds a C1 rating from the NRF and is an elected Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) (since 2018) and the Cell Stress Society International (CSSI) (since 2020), and a member of Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) (since 2017). She serves on the Editorial Broads for Scientific Reports, the Heat Shock Protein book series and is the South African Chair of International Chemical Biology Society (ICBS) Membership committee.

Adrienne’s research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms that control protein homeostasis in health and disease, and consequently allow cells to survive transient or sustained environmental stress. As part of the COVIDRUG-AFRICA Consortium, Adrienne’s group is developing a pseudoviral assay system for SARS-CoV2 that can be used under BSL2 facilities to screen for inhibitors of and understand the image of genetic variation on SARS-CoV2 infection based on the spike S2 protein and human ACE2 receptor interaction.


Associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Rhodes University, South Africa.

After obtaining a PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria (South Africa) in 1994, Heinrich took up three consecutive postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Cape Town (Dept. of Medical Biochemistry and Div. of Pharmacology) and at Yale University (Infectious Diseases Section), working on the molecular mechanisms of host cell invasion by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and protein trafficking mechanisms in Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii. In 2003 he obtained a Wellcome Trust Senior International Research Fellowship to continue his research on protein trafficking in the malaria parasite, P. falciparum, in the Pharmacology division at UCT. In 2008 he was appointed as leader of the Pharmacology Research Group at the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, where his main responsibility was to implement efficacy and ADME bioassays in support of the CSIR Drug Discovery platform. In 2011 he was employed as an Associate Professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Biochemistry & Microbiology at Rhodes University and is currently the Head of Department. His research focus during this period has been on phenotypic and target- based screening projects aimed at malaria, trypanosomiasis and HIV/AIDS in collaboration with synthetic and natural product chemists. However, his main current focus is chemically validating Arf1 GTPase as a drug target. This involves the development of novel plate-based screening assays for Arf GTPase activation and deactivation, employing the assays in library screens to identify novel Arf inhibitors, assessing the specificity, cellular activity and cytotoxicity of the inhibitors and confirming their mode of action. Given the important role of Arf1 activation and effectors in coronavirus replication, Arf1 inhibitors could conceptually be developed as host cell modulators to suppress SARS-CoV2 replication.


Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Department of Medical Biochemistry, Kisii University School of Medicine, Kenya.

Edwin holds a PhD in Bioinformatics from the South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI), University of the Western Cape, an MSc in Structural Biology from the University of Cape Town and a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Nairobi. His research is broadly focused on drug discovery for pathogens that cause human and livestock diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, his group 7 tilizes computational methods to decipher and prioritise attractive drug targets for experimental evaluation. He is a Principal Investigator (PI) in a project aimed at re- purposing kinase inhibitors as flukicides and a co-PI in projects aimed at uncovering novel Mycobacteria tuberculosis efflux pump inhibitors and new compounds targeting SARS-CoV-2 Plpro. Dr. Murungi is the Kenya coordinator, International Chemical Biology Society.

As part of the COVIDRUG-AFRICA Consortium, Edwin’s group is working on identifying effective inhibitors against Papain-like protease (PLpro) in the presence of African Continent specific mutations.