Jonathan Blackburn

Principal Investigator: Prof Jonathan Blackburn

Wernher & Beit Building North
Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine
UCT Faculty of Health Sciences
Observatory 7925
South Africa

Tel: +27 21 4066071

Fax: +27 21 6504833

Email:  jonathan.blackburn@uct.ac.za




Chemical Biology is a discipline spanning the fields of chemistry, biology and physics, involving the application of chemical and biochemical techniques, tools and analyses to the study and manipulation of biological systems, including the study of molecular mechanisms that underlies cellular function in human health and disease.

Applied Proteomics is a field of high throughput biological research that aims to describe and understand how the abundance, post-translational modification and functionality of the global proteome varies in a temporal manner in correlation with macroscopic properties of complex biological systems (e.g. development and progression of disease). The global aim is thus to delineate the molecular interaction networks between individual components which generate and control complex systems (e.g. cells, tissues & organisms) and their response to external stimuli.

Applied Proteomics also aims to understand the effects of genetic variation on the expression and function of the encoded proteins as well as on the properties of the whole cell, tissue or organism (e.g. correlating changes in genotype, gene transcription, or protein expression with disease susceptibility, disease progression, or with drug response in human and other systems).

Applied proteomics research programs invariably involve large-scale assays in which many proteins (or small molecules) in a cell, tissue or organism are measured and tracked in parallel through time and localization under different environmental conditions, in order that quantitative comparisons can then be made between for example normal and altered states.  Such programs therefore rely heavily on high throughput data-generating experimental technologies such as proteomics and metabolomics, but also including genomics, whilst using the data analysis methods of bioinformatics in order to make sense of the vast quantities of raw data that can now be generated through such large-scale assays.  Increasingly a typical applied proteomics program of research and innovation involves a multidisciplinary collaboration across a number of high throughput experimental platforms to study a specific, complex biological problem; for example, an applied proteomics program might study quantitative changes in protein and lipid expression in specific tissues or peripheral fluids through a large cohort of patients in order to identify molecular markers that might be diagnostic for a particular disease. 

Applied Proteomics & Chemical Biology research therefore has the potential to impact directly on our fundamental understanding of both individual molecules and complex biological systems, as well as of how their dysfunction correlates with disease.  In doing so, such research should yield the information, discoveries and inventions that can then be translated into future biomedical advances or that which have downstream commercial potential including, for example:

  1. Identifying underlying disease mechanisms
  2. Discovering and validating novel molecular targets for new drug- or vaccine development programs
  3. Identifying & validating patterns of biomarker expression which correlate with e.g. disease and/or disease progression and which could be used as the basis for new diagnostic/prognostic tests
  4. Identifying & validating patterns of surrogate marker expression which correlate with response to treatment and which could be used for patient stratification and monitoring during clinical trials of new drugs.



Group MEMBERS Position
Dr Nelson da Cruz Soares Junior Research Fellow
Dr Andrew Nel Chief Scientific Officer
Sriram Krishnan Project Manager
Cashifa Karriem PA / Administrator
Dr Nicolette Leukes Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr Rebecca Tadokera Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr Shankar Ramachandran Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr Bridget Calder Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr Clemens Hermann Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr Melisew Tadele Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr Leshern Karamchand Postdoctoral Fellow
Zarinah Sonday PhD student
Tariq Ganief PhD student
Shaun Garnett PhD student
Bianca Amos-Brown PhD student
Zandile Mlamla PhD student
Henriette Hobbs PhD student
Fezile Khumalo PhD student
Jessica Duarte PhD student
Jan Peyper PhD student
Kehilwe Nakedi PhD student
Muneera Smith PhD student
Brandon Murugan PhD student
Alex Giddey Masters student
Kim Gurwitz Masters student
Naadir Ganief Masters student
Henry Adeola PhD student (co-supervised)
Palesa Seele PhD student (co-supervised)