If so, the findings can reach the wider world at lightning speed — from the ministerial advisory committee in SA to the Africa Centres for Disease Control & Prevention and the World Health Organisation.
De Oliveira sees his work at Krisp as part of a larger role in which he is the principal investigator of the Network for Genomic Surveillance in SA, which was created in response to the pandemic. This means he is in constant contact with colleagues at Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town, the University of the Free State, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the National Health Laboratory Service and the South African National Bioinformatics Institute.
“We are passionate about doing high-level science in Africa, but that isn’t just for nice glossy publications. Most important is to inform the public health response.” This was always his raison d’être, and what drew him to UKZN in 1997 to complete his doctorate.
His CV has since expanded to include a University of Oxford fellowship, a professorship at the University of Washington in Seattle, and many more positions. Most people may not have heard of him before the pandemic, but for two decades he has been instrumental in decoding virus sequences in other diseases including HIV, hepatitis B and C, chikungunya (an infection spread by mosquitoes), dengue, zika and yellow fever.
He was also recently appointed by Stellenbosch University to set up a new institute that will work on controlling epidemics in Africa and the global South. He will retain his position at Krisp as the two universities will join forces for the new institute.