Sindisiwe Nondaba is a first-year MSc student at the University of Pretoria, under the supervision of Prof Debra Meyer. Her field of study is Biotechnology with specialisation in Biochemistry.
She is conducting research in the area of HIV/AIDS, mainly on HIV-1 subtype C, owing to the fact that it is the dominant subtype in South Africa and accounts for most of the global HIV-1 epidemic. Her project entails investigating host and virus-derived synthetic peptides to ascertain their potential as therapeutic tools.
The HIV research group, headed by Prof Debra Meyer, collaborates with researchers both nationally and internationally. The research conducted by the group involves a multidisciplinary combination of biochemical, analytical and physical techniques to obtain reproducible data. The specific areas of research include: metabonomic analysis of HIV- and Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) induced metabolic changes, the study of novel synthetic antigens as vaccine leads and tools for AIDS prognosis, as well as the use of natural products and metallodrugs as novel inhibitors of HIV replication.
Preliminary data produced by Sindisiwe suggests an association between disease progression and the presence of antibodies elicited by the aforementioned synthetic peptides, early in infection. Her work has also shown that the peptides are not toxic to cells. Although it is still early, Sindisiwe has already made progress towards achieving the objectives of her study.
It is possible that data from this project may necessitate re-evaluating and expanding current HIV diagnostic and prognostic technologies to make provision for methodologies that provide more information on disease status.
Following completion of her MSc, Sindisiwe wishes to pursue a doctorate in biotechnology and aspires to be among the top female scientists in this country.