26 May 2010 - Durban, South Africa - The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute today announced the appointment of William R. Bishai, M.D., Ph.D., as the first permanent director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH). The appointment takes effect in September 2010. Dr Bishai is the Co-Chair of the Stop TB Partnership‘s Working Group for New TB Drugs.
K-RITH is the result of a groundbreaking partnership between the two organizations to establish an international center of scientific research excellence that focuses on making major scientific contributions to the worldwide effort to control the devastating co-epidemic of tuberculosis and HIV and on training a new generation of scientists in Africa. HHMI, UKZN and LIFE Lab, a biotechnology center of the government of South Africa, are funding construction of research facilities that are expected to open in 2012 on the campus of Durban’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine. HHMI has committed $70 million to the project over 10 years.
K-RITH builds on a strong foundation of other cross-Atlantic collaborations that have linked scientists in KwaZulu-Natal and their colleagues around the world with clinical researchers in the province. These initiatives - supported by the South African government; universities in South Africa, the U.S., and Europe; the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and philanthropic funding - have made significant scientific and clinical discoveries that have advanced the treatment of HIV and, more recently, the treatment of tuberculosis.
As Co-director of the Center for Tuberculosis Research at Johns Hopkins, Bishai’s research is focused on understanding how and why the tuberculosis bacillus has been so successful at infecting humans. Bishai’s laboratory has been using genetic techniques to investigate how M. tuberculosis can slip under the radar of the human immune system. Over time, he and his colleagues have learned that the microbe has developed a range of clever strategies to foil macrophages - immune system cells that attack and engulf invaders.
Bishai, received both his medical degree and doctorate from Harvard University 1989. He completed his fellowship training in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and was a Howard Hughes Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the laboratory of Nobel laureate, Dr. Hamilton Smith. He is the author of more than 150 papers in peer-reviewed journals, and receives grant support from the National Institutes of Health.