The Colin Kaplan Prize is awarded annually for young researchers whose research shows the highest impact.  It aims to recognize leadership and excellence. The award is a bequest from the estate of Professor Colin Kaplan.

Colin Kaplan (1920 – 2012) went to the University of Cape Town where he completed his MBChB. After internships at the University’s Groote Schuur Teaching Hospital he became a lecturer in the Department of Pathology, until the 1948 introduction of apartheid legislation by South Africa’s nationalist government persuaded him to take his family to England. He was appointed lecturer in the bacteriology department at University College Hospital and then as a bacteriologist at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, he pioneered a programme to accelerate the production of freeze dried smallpox vaccine, becoming head of the virus vaccine department.  As a member of the WHO scientific committee on smallpox, he oversaw the global eradication of the disease in 1977. He remains highly regarded as one of the two founding editors of the Journal of General Virology in 1967.
(Adapted from obituaries in the BMJ and JGV).



Dr Gama Bandawe for the research published in "Differences in HIV type 1 neutralization breadth in 2 geographically distinct cohorts in Africa", Journal of Infectious Diseases 211(9):1461-6, on November 14, 2014.


Dr Colin Anthony for the research published in "Viral variants that initiate and drive maturation of V1V2-directed HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies", Nature Medicine 21(11):1332-6 in November 2015.


Lindi Masson for her exceptional work on genital inflammation and HIV risk in young women. Lindi has performed outstandingly in this area: she has published her work in high impact papers (for example two in Clinical Infectious Diseases, impact factor 8.8, in the last 2 years); has patented a device to detect inflammation recently awarded R5.7 million to evaluate this device in a clinical trial.


Anna Happel received the Colin Kaplan Award for the young investigator in Virology who has made the greatest impact. Anna published two probiotics manuscripts in 2017, has received Medicines Control Council approval to run a clinical trial on the use of Vagiforte® Plus probiotic for treatment of bacterial vaginosis (BV) and has evaluated novel probiotic Lactobacillus spp. candidates for treating BV.


Daniel Sheward received the Colin Kaplan Award for his seminal paper on HIV superinfection:
HIV Superinfection Drives De Novo Antibody Responses and Not Neutralization Breadth.
Daniel J. Sheward, Jinny Marais, Valerie Bekker, Ben Murrell, Kemal Eren, Jinal N. Bhiman, Molati Nonyane, Nigel Garrett, Zenda L. Woodman, Quarraisha Abdool Karim, Salim S. Abdool Karim, Lynn Morris, Penny L. Moore, and Carolyn Williamson. Cell Host Microbe. 2018;24(4):593-599.e3.


Melissa-Rose Abrahams is an NGAP lecturer and early career investigator in the Division of Medical Virology, who previously served in the role of Scientific and Research Officer respectively in the HIV Diversity Group of Prof Carolyn Williamson. She has been actively involved in HIV transmission research since 2006 and cure research since 2015.

The greatest challenge to achieving a cure for HIV is a pool of silently infected cells that persists in the body despite antiretroviral treatment, known as the latent reservoir. This reservoir is understudied in African populations in general, and in women in particular. African women remain the most severely affected by the global epidemic.

Melissa-Rose took a leading role in an NIH-funded study to time the establishment of the HIV reservoir in nine South African women from KwaZulu Natal, a study involving multiple members of the Williamson (study PI) group and collaborators at the University of North Carolina where Prof Ron Swanstrom is co-PI. The findings from this study were recently published in the high impact journal ‘Science Translational Medicine’ and an image from the paper (generated by David Matten, a member of the Williamson group) was selected for the journal cover.

The study found that the majority of this reservoir is established close to the time that antiretroviral treatment was initiated. This finding has translational potential as it points to a window of opportunity for biomedical intervention at the time of treatment initiation to restrict the reservoir.

Abrahams MR, Joseph SB, Garrett N, et al. The replication-competent HIV-1 latent reservoir is primarily established near the time of therapy initiation. Sci Transl Med. 2019;11(513)  DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaw5589 [PubMed]


Gert (Ruan) Marais developed and optimised an extraction free high-volume workflow for SARS-CoV-2 testing in a diagnostic laboratory to allow higher volumes of tests to be done while eliminating the need for international supply chain dependent RNA extraction kits.

Marais G, Naidoo M, Hsiao NY, Valley-Omar Z, Smuts H, Hardie D. The implementation of a rapid sample preparation method for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in a diagnostic laboratory in South Africa. PLoS One. 2020;15(10):e0241029. Published 2020 Oct 20. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0241029 [PubMed]


Sherazaan Ismail is a post-doctoral fellow in the Division of Medical Virology who has recently submitted her PhD thesis evaluating the impact of immune activation and inflammation on characteristics of the HIV-1 latent reservoir in South African women.

To our knowledge, this work is the first of its kind in an African population and Sherazaan has not only produced an elegant dissertation but, during the course of the last year, she has also first-authored a research article in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases (Impact factor: 8.3) and co-first authored a review on challenges to an HIV cure in low-and-middle income countries (LMICs) that was published in the journal Retrovirology (Impact factor: 4.18). These works are listed below.

  1. Ismail S, Riou C, Joseph SB et al. (2021) Immunological Correlates of the HIV-1 Replication-Competent Reservoir Size. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 73(8):1528-1531.
  2. Ismail SD, Pankrac J, Ndashimye E et al. (2021) Addressing an HIV cure in LMIC. Retrovirology. 18,21.

The CID article reported that CD8+ T-cell activation and nadir CD4 T-cell count before initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART) was predictive of HIV-1 latent reservoir size in South African women. This expands on ongoing work within the division highlighting the impact of events before treatment that impact this reservoir, which is the greatest barrier to a cure. This work therefore informs HIV curative strategies by enhancing our understanding of determinants of reservoir formation and dynamics.

The Retrovirology review was a much-needed insight into the unique challenges that may be experienced in African and other LMICs in terms of the implementation of HIV curative strategies. It highlighted socio-economic, public health, demographic as well as regional differences in the epidemic that may present additional barriers to achieving a cure in these settings.

Sherazaan has a meticulous approach and serious dedication to her work and is passionate about being a voice for disadvantaged individuals and populations. She is an active member of the division through contribution to and taking on of leading roles in committees aimed at transformation, student support and social responsiveness, including donation drives. She is a very deserving candidate for this award.