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Meet the people of CHI

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Dirk Blom
Prof. Dirk Blom

MBChB, MMed (Int Med), FCP (SA), PhD
Head of Division of Lipidology, University of Cape Town
P: +27 (0)21 406 6358 | E: dirk.blom@uct.ac.za
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CHI research group: Lipid Research (Lead)
CHI membership: Full member

Dirk Blom is the Head of the Division of Lipidology at the University of Cape Town and heads the Lipid Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital. His personal research interests include genetic disorders of lipoprotein metabolism with a particular emphasis on dysbetalipoproteinaemia and familial hypercholesterolaemia. Professor Blom is a member of multiple international societies and currently serves on the executive committee of the Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society of Southern Africa. He has published in numerous high-impact peer-reviewed journals.

Research engagements:

  • Clinical trials – HoFH, HeFH, FCS, statin intolerance
  • Homozygous FH registry
  • Dysbetalipoproteinaemia in Ghana
  • Statin-associated myalgia – pharmacogenomic study

CHI staff


Reto Guler
Prof. Reto Guler

Associate Professor, Division of Immunology, Department of Pathology, University of Cape Town
P: +27 (0)21 406 6033 | E: reto.guler@uct.ac.za
 Google Scholar 
CHI research group: General Medicine & Global Health (GMGH) 
CHI membership: Affiliate member

Reto Guler is an Associate Professor based at the Division of Immunology, University of Cape Town. He is an Associate Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease & Molecular Medicine (IDM) and Affiliated Member at the CHI. His current research work aims to identify targets for pathogen and host-directed drug therapy for tuberculosis. This includes the identification of statins and host non-coding RNAs as host-directed drug therapy for TB and the role of epigenetics in host immunity to TB. He is the coordinator of the international Statin TB consortium funded by EDCTP to conduct a clinical trial investigating the use of statins to prevent chronic lung inflammation and potentially TB relapse. He is a member of the international FANTOM consortium on genome-wide transcriptome analysis using CAGE transcriptomics. His research further investigates Minor Groove Binders as novel anti-mycobacterial agents and non-ionic surfactant vesicles as a drug delivery system for tuberculosis.

Research engagements:

  • Preventing tuberculosis relapse and chronic lung disease (StatinTB)
  • Targeting non-coding RNAs as host-directed drug therapy for tuberculosis
  • Epigenetics in host immunity to tuberculosis
  • Novel anti-mycobacterial agents


Julian Hovelmann
Dr Julian Hoevelmann

PhD Student, University of Cape Town
P: +27 (0)21 406 6358 | E: julian.hoevelmann@uct.ac.za
 Google Scholar 
CHI research group: Cardiac Disease in Maternity
CHI membership: Associate member

Julian Hoevelmann studied Medicine at Hannover Medical School (MHH), the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of Münster. He completed his doctoral thesis (Dr. med.) at the Department of Cardiology and Angiology at MHH. Since 2020 he works as a registrar in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at the Saarland University Hospital in Homburg (Saar), Germany.

As a scholar of the Biomedical Education Program (BMEP) funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), he joined the Cardiac Disease in Maternity research group at the Cape Heart Institute (CHI) for a research fellowship in 2017. A postdoctoral research scholarship by the German Research Foundation (DFG) enabled him to return to Cape Town in 2020 and to pursue his research interests in heart failure, cardiomyopathies, cardiac disease in maternity, arrhythmias and electrocardiography. Julian Hoevelmann is currently a first-year PhD student in the Cardiac Disease in Maternity research group under the supervision of Prof. Karen Sliwa and Dr Charle Viljoen.

Research engagements:

  • Heart failure
  • Cardiac Disease in Maternity
  • Arrhythmia
  • Cardiovascular imaging 


Patrick Katoto
Dr Patrick de Marie C. Katoto

MBChB, MSC (Stellenbosch University), PhD (KU Leuven)
Senior Medical Officer and Sub-Investigator
E: patrick.katoto@uct.ac.za
 Google Scholar 
CHI research group: General Medicine & Global Health (GMGH) 
CHI membership: Associate member

Patrick Katoto is an epidemiologist and global health expert with more than ten years of working experience as a clinician, academic, and advisor for multiple public and private health agencies. He has worked on various projects of global health concern and produced evidence to inform decision making to address HIV, tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases, and HIV and tuberculosis in the context of household air pollution in resource-limited settings. He is co-investigator of the Baseline African Sepsis Incidence Survey (BASIS) and of the StatinTB trial, a proof-of-concept study to reduce post-tuberculosis lung diseases. He teaches on the course on Globalization and Sustainable Development at the University of Hasselt, Belgium. He is a Fogarty Fellow (HIV research training program in LMICs, Mentors: Prof. Friedrich Thienemann and Prof. Jean B. Nachega).

Research engagements:

  • HIV/AIDS-cardiovascular diseases: pulmonary hypertension/ metabolic syndrome
  • Post-tuberculosis cardiorespiratory diseases
  • Hallmarks of earlier cellular senescence (telomere length and mtDNA) and health outcomes
  • Health effects of air pollution and research methodology


Sandrine Lecour
Prof. Sandrine Lecour

Deputy Director CHI
PharmD, (Dijon, France), PhD
P: +27 (0)21 406 6278 | E: sandrine.lecour@uct.ac.za
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CHI research group: Cardioprotection (Lead)
CHI membership: Full member

Sandrine Lecour is Professor in physiology in the Department of Medicine, Deputy Director of the CHI and Head of the Cardioprotection group at the University of Cape Town. Her research interests include the delineation of intrinsic prosurvival signalling pathways activated in different pathophysiological conditions, including ischemic heart disease (she discovered the SAFE pathway in 2009). Fellow of the European Society of Cardiology, she is the founder of the South African Heart Society for Cardiovascular Research (SASCAR) and currently the treasurer of the International Society for Heart Research. As a B-rated NRF researcher, she is on the Editorial Boards of numerous scientific journals with high-impact factor.

Research engagements:

  • Delineation of the SAFE pathway for cardioprotection
  • Lipoprotein metabolism and cardiovascular risk factors
  • Dietary melatonin/natural products for cardioprotection
  • Signalling mechanisms in cancer drugs-induced cardiac toxicity

CHI staff

Evelyn Lumngwena
Dr Evelyn N Lumngwena

PhD in Molecular and Cellular virology, UCT
P: +27 (0)21 406 6358 | E: en.lumngwena@uct.ac.za
Google Scholar |  
CHI research group: Cardiac Imaging & Inflammation Research Group 

Dr Lumngwena joined the Cape Heart Institutes as a post-doctoral research fellow on a project focused on understanding the pathogenesis of Rheumatic valvular heart disease (RHD) in a South African cohort in Cape Town. Her interests are understanding the basic mechanisms of the progression of RHD. She is studying differential protein expression in heart tissues and in the blood of RHD patients to understand changes due to RHD. She is also interested in profiling autoimmune proteins in heart valve tissues and blood of RHD to understand epitopes that drive RHD progression. Moreover, she seeks to identify and differentiate autoimmune proteins shuttled by blood vesicles to drive the progression of RHD.
Research engagements:

  • Translational cardiovascular research
  • Proteomics/ Protein analyses
  • Mass spectrometry/Basic bio-informatics visualization
  • Extracellular vesicles in disease pathogenesis


Antoneta Mashinyira
Antoneta Mashinyira

BCom (Hons) Information Systems, MPhil Candidate
Data Quality Officer, CHI
P: +27 (0)21 361 4592 | E: antoneta.mashinyira@uct.ac.za 
CHI research group: General Medicine & Global Health (GMGH)  

Antoneta Mashinyira is the Data Quality Officer in the General Medicine and Global Health (GMGH) research group and oversees all data development and management at GMGH. Her journey in research started when she joined CIDRI-Africa at the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine at UCT as a data capture more than ten years ago. She developed a passion for information systems, especially in healthcare and studied data management and information systems. In 2013, Antoneta was promoted to become the Data Control Coordinator at CIDRI-Africa, coordinating data capture and cleaning and quality management across multiple studies, including multicentre randomised controlled trials and cohort studies. Antoneta joined GMGH in 2020. Her particular interest is in technological innovations as healthcare interventions to improve health outcomes in sub-Saharan African countries. Antoneta is currently a fellow in the Fogarty HIV-associated TB Training Program.

Research engagements:

  • MDR-TB household contact studies (MDR HHC study)
  • Reducing TB treatment duration (PredictTB)
  • Preventing tuberculosis relapse and chronic lung disease (StatinTB)

CHI staff

Sandra Mukasa
Dr Sandra Mukasa

MBChB, Diploma in the Management of HIV and AIDS, MBA candidate
Deputy Group Leader, Site Director StatinTB trial and Principal Investigator
P: +27 (0)21 406 6088 | E: sandra.mukasa@uct.ac.za
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CHI research group: General Medicine & Global Health (GMCH)
CHI membership: Associate member

Sandra Mukasa is a senior medical officer. She trained at the University of Cape Town and later did her post-graduate diploma in HIV management at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. She worked for the City of Cape Town in primary health care clinics focusing on HIV and TB management before she joined the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine as a sub-investigator in 2015. She has worked on single and multicentre studies and clinical trials and has been the lead site investigator since 2017. In 2019, she became the deputy director of the General Medicine & Global Health (GMGH) research group. 

Research engagements:

  • Tuberculosis treatment trials
  • Tuberculosis vaccine trials
  • Post tuberculosis cardiopulmonary disease
  • Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis household contact studies

CHI staff


Ntobeko Ntusi
Prof. Ntobeko AB Ntusi

BSc(hons), MBChB, DPhi,l MD, FRCP, FRSSA
Department of Medicine
P: +27 (0)21 650 9111 | E: ntobeko.ntusi@uct.ac.za
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CHI research group: Cardiac Imaging and Inflammation (Lead)
CHI membership: Full member

Ntobeko Ntusi is a cardiologist and a Professor of Medicine, and is the Chair and Head of Medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH); and is the Clinical Lead for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance (CMR) at UCT and GSH. He is a Principal Investigator at the CHI's Cardiac Imaging and Inflammation research group and the Cape Universities Body Imaging Centre (CUBIC) and a Collaborating Investigator at The Wellcome Trust Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa. He is the Editor in Chief of the South African Heart Journal and serves as Associate Editor for Circulation and BMC Medical Imaging. He has been actively engaged and contributed to an improved understanding of cardiomyopathy, inflammatory heart disease and heart failure in South Africa and globally.

Research engagements:

  • Heart failure and cardiomyopathy
  • Resistant hypertension
  • Inflammatory heart disease
  • Advanced cardiovascular imaging
  • Molecular cardiology and immunology

CHI staff


Julian Scherer
Dr Julian Scherer

PhD Student, University of Cape Town
P: +27 (0)21 406 6358 | E: julian.scherer@usz.ch
 Google Scholar 
CHI research group: General Medicine & Global Health (GMGH) 
CHI membership: Affiliate member

Julian Scherer is a PhD student enrolled at the University of Cape Town and supervised by Prof. Friedrich Thienemann (CHI & Department of Medicine) and Prof. Michael Held (Division of Orthopaedic Surgery) and an Affiliated Member at the CHI. Julian is also a surgical registrar at the Department of Traumatology of the University Hospital Zurich. After conducting research on traumatic spinal disorders, his PhD now aims to better understand the pathogenesis of spinal TB and its distributional patterns. This includes the use of whole-body 18F-FDG PET/CT performed at Cape Universities Body Imaging Centre (CUBIC) as a new diagnostic tool for disseminated TB and gene expression profiling, hypothesizing that isolated spinal TB has a distinct gene expression profile when compared to disseminated TB with spinal involvement. The results of this work aim to improve the understanding of the different manifestations of TB and to personalize TB therapy.

Research engagements:

  • Spinal TB
  • PET/CT and MRI imaging in TB
  • Gene expression analysis
  • Trauma surgery 

Gasnat Shaboodien
Prof. Gasnat Shaboodien

Cardiovascular Genetics Lab
P: +27 (0)21 406 6615 | E: gasnat.shaboodien@uct.ac.za
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CHI research group: Cardiovascular Genetics (CVG) (Lead)
CHI membership: Full member

Professor Gasnat Shaboodien is the Director of the Cardiovascular Genetics laboratory and has also been the group leader since 2013. She is a trained molecular geneticist with her main areas of in interest being the genetics of inherited cardiac diseases and other rare disorders. Her research aims to discover the genetic causes of inherited heart diseases that cause sudden death or that require heart transplants. This has involved the study of rare families with monogenic disease and the delineation of the genetic architecture of complex traits associated with sudden death (such as cardiac hypertrophy). 
In 2009 her team reported the first multicenter study on the clinical characteristics, survival experience, and profile of PKP2 gene mutations in patients with ARVC (heart disease) from the African continent. In 2013 they found a new gene (FAM111B) as the cause of a newly reported disease called hereditary fibrosing poikiloderma and then in 2017, they made headline news when they discovered a new gene (CDH2) as the cause of sudden cardiac death in ARVC. Professor Shaboodien and her team have also established the first zebrafish unit at the University of Cape Town (UCT), thereby introducing the zebrafish as a new disease model at UCT.

Research engagements:

  • Cardiomyopathies (MAIN)
  • Neuromuscular disease
  • Alzheimer's disease

CHI staff

Karen Sliwa-Hahnle
Prof. Karen Sliwa-Hahnle

Director CHI
Professor of Cardiology, Faculty of Health Sciences
P: +27 (0)21 406 6457 | E: karen.sliwa-hahnle@uct.ac.za
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CHI research groups: Cardiac Disease in Maternity (CDM) (Lead), Heart of Africa (Lead)
CHI membership: Full member

Prof. Karen Sliwa is appointed as the Director of the Cape Heart Institute, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town. She is also a senior cardiologist working at the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Groote Schuur Hospital, University of Cape Town and at UCT Private Academic Hospital. Her special areas of expertise are heart failure, structural heart diseases such as cardiomyopathy and cardiac disease in pregnancy.

Prof. Sliwa is widely recognised as a world expert in cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), with a special interest in reducing mortality in women with cardiac disease in maternity. She has contributed to a better understanding of the pathophysiology, treatment options and awareness of peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), a global disease particularly prevalent in African populations.
She led and still leads several inter-Africa and global research projects, which have had a major impact on creating knowledge about CVDs common in Africa and other Middle-to-Lower income regions, leading to changes in policy. Her considerable experience in setting up simple, cost-effective registries and web-based data entry platforms have had a major impact on planning several innovative research projects and has facilitated the training of physicians from several African countries, including Mozambique, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda and Tanzania. Her translational research from bench-bed-to-population studies has led to a much better understanding of CVDs such as rheumatic heart disease and heart failure due to various causes and subsequently to improved patient care.

She holds numerous awards such as the German Cardiac Society Paul Morawitz Award for Exceptional Cardiovascular Research ( 2013), an Honorary Doctorate University Diderot-Sorbonne, Paris, France (2017), European Cardiac Society Geoffrey Rose Award for Population Sciences ( 2019) and the South African Medical Research Council Gold award ( 2021). She has authored more than 350 publications, trained more than 30 postgraduate students. Her papers are highly cited ( H-index 88, > 80 000 citations-July 2021).
Professor Sliwa leads several high-profile special interest groups including a dedicated EORP Working Group on PPCM of the Heart Failure Association of European Society of Cardiology and the World Heart Federation Expert Group on Neglected Cardiovascular Diseases. Over her distinguished career, she has served in many notable roles, including chair of the South African Heart Failure Association ( HeFSSA), President of the South African Heart Association (2014-2016), President of the World Heart Federation (2019-2020) and currently Vice president Southern Region Pan African Society of Cardiology ( 2016-2021).

Research engagements:

  • Heart Failure
  • Structural Heart Disease such as Cardiomyopathy, Peripartum Cardiomyopathy
  • Cardiac Disease in Pregnancy
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease

CHI staff


Friedrich Thienemann
Prof. Friedrich Thienemann

Internal Medicine & Infectious Diseases Specialist, DTMPH, MSc International Health
Honorary Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
P: +27 (0)21 406 6358 | E: friedrich.thienemann@uct.ac.za
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CHI research groups: General Medicine & Global Health – GMGH (Lead) | Heart of Africa
CHI membership: Full member

Friedrich Thienemann undertook his post-graduate training in internal medicine, infectious diseases, tropical medicine and global health at Charité University Hospital Berlin and the University of Cape Town. In 2009, he joined the Department of Medicine and Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine at the University of Cape Town and served as an investigator of several EU, NIH and university-funded projects and successfully administered multi-national, multi-site clinical trials and cohort studies across Africa. In 2019, Friedrich Thienemann established the research group General Medicine & Global Health (GMGH) with two sites, at the University of Zurich and the Cape Heart Institute of the University of Cape Town. His work is on optimising the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, understanding the intersection of infectious and cardiovascular disease and the role of molecular imaging in infective lung disease. He lives between Zurich and Cape Town.

Research engagements:

  • Understanding tuberculosis and HIV-associated to pulmonary hypertension (PAPCUO II)
  • Preventing tuberculosis relapse and chronic lung disease (StatinTB
  • Shortening tuberculosis treatment duration (PredictTB

CHI staff


Karen Wolmarans
Dr Karen Wolmarans

Senior Medical Officer and Sub-Investigator
P: +27 (0)21 406 6088 | E: karen.wolmarans@uct.ac.za
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CHI research group: General Medicine & Global Health (GMCH)
CHI membership: Associate member

Karen Wolmarans moved to Cape Town after completing her MBChB studies at the University of Pretoria in 1987. She has worked at Groote Schuur Hospital and The Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, Cape Town. She joined the Division of Lipidology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town in 1997 and has been a sub-investigator on numerous clinical research studies. Her particular interest is in the prevention of Atherosclerosis and the use of ultrasound to measure Carotid Intima-Media Thickness. She joined the General Medicine & Global Health (GMGH) research group and the StatinTB trial in March 2020 as a sub-investigator. 

Research engagements:

  • Inherited lipid disorders and Diabetes mellitus
  • Post tuberculosis cardiopulmonary disease
  • Spirometry in tuberculosis
  • PET/CT analysis in tuberculosis

CHI staff


Liesl Zühlke
Prof. Liesl Zühlke

Faculty of Health Sciences
P: +27 (0)21 650 2373 | E: liesl.zuhlke@uct.ac.za
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CHI research group: Partnerships for Children with Heart Disease in Africa (PROTEA) (Lead)
CHI membership: Full member

Prof. Liesl Zühlke is a paediatric cardiologist in the Division of Paediatric Cardiology at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and directs the Children’s Heart Disease Research Unit which focuses on family-centred research into children’s heart diseases of relevance in Africa. Her research projects span congenital and rheumatic heart disease, HIV in adolescents, grown-up congenital heart disease and cardiac disease in women of childbearing age. She currently leads, among others, the PROTEA study, “Partnerships for Children with Heart Disease in Africa”, which aims to describe the epidemiology and genetic origins of congenital heart disease in several countries in Africa. She Is NRF-rated, has over 130 publications and over 26 000 citations.

Prof. Zühlke was the 2018 recipient of the prestigious MRC/DfID African Research Leader Award, a finalist in the 22nd National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)-South32 Awards and is designated one of the top three scholars in rheumatic heart disease research worldwide. Internationally she serves as the President of Reach (Rheumatic Heart Disease, Evidence, Advocacy, Communication and Hope), a board member of the World Heart Federation, an international scientific advisory board of Children's Heart Link and Global ARCH and an executive member of SAVAC (Strep A Vaccine Global Consortium).

As the only womxn full Professor of Paediatric Cardiology in the country, she has achieved the highest leadership positions within cardiology in South Africa; President of the Paediatric Cardiac Society of South Africa, President of the South African Heart Association and currently chair of both the PANPACH (Paediatric and Congenital) and Rheumatic Heart Disease Task Forces of the Pan-African Society of Cardiology.

Research engagements:

  • Congenital Heart Disease
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease
  • Cardiac disease in women of childbearing age
  • Heart Disease associated with COVID-19/MIS-C
  • HIV-associated Heart Disease

CHI staff