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Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Mandela Uni alumnus Gerhardt Boukes (38) who holds a PhD in Biochemistry, is part of a team making the first mRNA vaccine for human use on the African continent.

“This is a tremendous honour and achievement. We want people to have access to the most effective prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines (and other medicines) available on the market.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic Africa and other low- to middle-income countries (LMICs) were last in line to receive lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines. We cannot allow this to happen again!”, says Gerhardt.

He is the Chief Scientist at Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines and focuses on the research and development (R&D) of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.

Gerhardt, is based in Cape Town and works closely with other teams at Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines who oversee production, quality control/assurance and regulatory aspects of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. Part of his job is to identify new and improved technologies for vaccine R&D and production.    

His focus in the Global mRNA Technology and Training Hub (Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines) is on the formulation of the SARS-CoV-2 spike mRNA into lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) and pre-clinical animal studies.

This includes the production and analytics of the drug product (i.e., formulated mRNA in LNPs). “I will also be involved in the mRNA technology transfer to other spokes and training of the trainers.

“Additionally, we are looking at ways to improve the current COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, e.g., novel lipids, novel modified nucleotides and thermostability”, he says.

The Global mRNA Technology and Training Hub (Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines), with the help of WHO, will build capacity and capabilities across Africa and other LMICs to produce vaccines using cutting-edge mRNA technology.

Prior to joining Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, Gerhardt was a postdoctoral researcher at Mandela Uni in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, under the supervision of Dr Sharlene Govender and Prof Maryna van de Venter. He worked on two projects, namely natural prodrugs against pancreatic cancer and investigating the biological properties of South African macrofungi.

Before that, he was a postdoctoral research assistant and senior technician at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), Dublin, where he conducted research on colorectal cancer. 

Currently, he is completing the research component of his International Master’s in Vaccinology (IMVACC) at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160