Prof Koleka Mlisana takes reins as MAC COVID-19 co-chair, Abdool Karim to return to HIV research
In a statement, the Ministry of Health confirmed that Prof Abdool Karim had elected to stepped down to return to HIV research and innovation. “It has been a singular honour to serve on the MAC alongside exceptional colleagues. After exactly one year, the time has come for me to return to my academic commitments. As I leave to refocus on HIV research, I know full well that advice on our COVID-19 response is in safe hands,” said Prof Karim.
The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) said in a statement that Prof Koleka Mlisana, executive manager: Academic Affairs, Research and Quality Assurance, has been appointed as co-chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC). The appointment follows the resignation of Prof Abdool Karim. Prof Mlisana will co-chair the MAC with Prof Marian Jacobs.
Prof Mlisana was already a member of the advisory committee. She is a highly experienced and well-respected scientist locally and internationally. She is an incumbent of the MAC on COVID-19 as chair of the Pathology/Laboratory Subcommittee. She also serves as a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance.
Prof Mlisana has been an active HIV/ AIDS researcher for many decades, focusing on HIV prevention and pathogenesis, whilst working alongside Prof Abdool Karim at the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA). Aligned to this, she serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) as well as the Medical and Dental Board of the HPCSA. She has nurtured and mentored many young scientists and is passionate about equipping the next generation of leaders in science.
Her appointment will ensure continuity following Prof Abdool Karim’s sterling scientific leadership within the MAC alongside the other members who are world-leading scientists and leaders that have been providing advisories to the Minister and the National Department of Health. Prof Mlisana is joining a strong Advisory Committee, which she has previously served in as Chair of the Laboratory/Pathology subgroup. The establishment of MAC, since the emergence of the pandemic in South Africa, has ensured evidence-based and scientific advice and decision making for the minister and the cabinet. The combination of her experience as an eminent scientist and academic makes Prof Mlisana an ideal fit as the co-chair of MAC.
Dr Kamy Chetty the chief executive officer for the NHLS said the appointment of Prof Mlisana is indeed an honour and a recognition of her expertise, we are proud of her achievement. “On behalf of the NHLS, I wish her well in her new journey as the co-chair of MAC.”
Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said, “He has every confidence in Prof Mlisana’s expertise and skills and is grateful that there will be good preservation of institutional knowledge, ensuring continuity in the leadership of this highly influential body- the MAC on COVID-19. We wish Prof Mlisana the very best and assure her of our support as a department and as government.”
The MAC will take on a recomposition of experts and the full names of the committee will be announced once the appointment processes have been concluded.
Jacobs indicated that the recomposition will see the strengthening of the MAC in the fields of virology, bioinformatics and phylogenetics, mathematical modelling, pharmaceuticals and social behavioural change.
Sources: National Health Laboratory Services, National Department of Health