Masego Dilebo, a master’s student in biochemistry in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria, recently won an award for the best oral presentation at the 5th Annual Malaria Research Conference.
In 2016, during her undergraduate studies, Dilebo became a member of the biochemistry mentorship programme. "I was placed at the Malaria Parasite Molecular Biology Laboratory (M2PL) and given the opportunity to learn about research prior to the commencement of my postgraduate studies. Since then, my interest in malaria research grew. I have had the pleasure of doing my postgraduate studies (honours and master’s) in the Department of Biochemistry as a member of this lab, which forms the parasite biology cluster under the University of Pretoria Institute for Sustainable Malaria Control (UPISMC)," she explained.
"To be given this award was an honour, especially given the amount of hard work and dedication required to obtain the outcomes for my research. I was afforded the opportunity to communicate my research in the presence of many leading malaria researchers and stakeholders in southern Africa. This helped build my confidence in knowing I can contribute towards a common goal regarding changing the current status quo of malaria in southern Africa. A platform like this allows one to demonstrate how basic research contributes towards the national strategies of malaria elimination. Overall, I was proud to showcase leading research being done at the UPISMC.
"M2PL is an interdisciplinary lab that focuses on different aspects of the malaria parasite including molecular biology, immunology, drug discovery and the likes. However, I was particularly interested in drug discovery research and thus had the pleasure of doing research on potential new antimalarial drugs. My research project is titled 'Mechanistic investigation of a novel artemisinin-based combination therapy that targets Plasmodium falciparum parasites' and is supervised by Prof Lyn-Marie Birkholtz with Dr Dina Coertzen as co-supervisor.
"The primary focus of my study is to address the current issue of resistance against all antimalarials. We proposed a new drug combination strategy that targets the disease-causing and transmissible stages. The outcomes of the study were very encouraging since we demonstrated the potential of this new combination that would not only help with the issue of resistance but also prevent further transmission of the disease, thereby contributing towards malaria elimination," she concluded.