Lecturer/researcher: Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, University of the Free State

Olihile M Sebolai

At 26, Olihile Sebolai made international headlines for a groundbreaking discovery concerning future nanotechnology, earning him an MSc in microbiology, six awards and the title “genius”. Now 33, he is using his genius and PhD in microbiology to tackle the cause of life-threatening Aids-defining illnesses, a pathogen that claims 500 000 lives in sub- Saharan Africa annually.

Through his research on Cryptococcus neoformans, Sebolai focuses on the “war” between the virus and the immune system, and what causes one to win. If his research is successful, he’ll be able to advance much-needed literature and contribute towards future drug development that, in combating the disease, will save lives.

A lecturer at the University of the Free State, Sebolai is one of two members of the vice-chancellor’s elite Prestige Scholar Programme — a capacity development programme for up-and-coming academics. Through it, Sebolai has the opportunity to pursue his critical research abroad, liaising with the world’s leading minds on the subject.

— Lu Larche

Website: ufs.ac.za