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Valerie Mixrahi (1958 - )

The Order of Mapungubwe in

Valerie Mixrahi (1958 - ) Awarded for:
Excellent contribution in the field of biochemistry and molecular biology and contributing to the developing of genetic tools for validating new drug targets and vaccine candidates for tuberculosis.

Profile of Valerie Mixrahi

Valerie Mizrahi was born in 1958, in the then Rhodesia, where she was raised. She obtained her PhD degree in Chemistry from the University of Cape Town in 1983. In her quest to acquire more knowledge, Mizrahi moved to the United States of America (USA) where she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Pennsylvania State University.

She then worked at SmithKline and French Research and Development in the USA. Her strong commitment to Africa saw her moving back to South Africa in 1989 after which she established a research unit at the South African Institute for Medical Research in Johannesburg. In 2004, Mizrahi delivered the inaugural Distinguished Science Alumni Lecture at the University of Cape Town. In 2005, she was one of four scholars invited to participate in a Royal Society (United Kingdom [UK]) and South African High Commission Lecture Series in the UK to mark 10 years of post-apartheid democracy in South Africa by showcasing academic endeavours in the country. In 2006, she was awarded the Gold Medal of the South African Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for her lifetime contributions to this field.

She has published 70 research articles, book chapters and review articles in the fields of organic chemistry, enzymology and mycobacteriology and has trained numerous postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students. After returning to South Africa in 1989, Mizrahi shifted the focus of her research to the field of tuberculosis (TB). Her research team played an instrumental role in developing genetic tools for validating new drug targets and vaccine candidates for TB and is internationally recognised for its work on molecular mechanisms of DNA metabolism, stress responses, electron transport, resuscitation and drug action in mycobacteria.

Having seen the devastation caused by TB, Mizrahi has become a very active member of the TB research community locally and abroad. She is a frequently invited participant at international conferences and workshops. She served as vice-chair of the 2005 Gordon Research Conference on TB Drug Development in the USA. She has served on the scientific advisory boards of a number of local and international research programmes and institutes. Mizrahi is on the editorial advisory boards of four international journals and is a member of the Department of Science and Technology’s South African Reference Group for Women in Science.

Mizrahi’s efforts to help ordinary people have seen her receive a number of accolades from her peers in the field of science. In 2000, she was awarded the Unesco-L'Oréal For Women in Science Prize for Africa. She has received the Silver Medal of the South African Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The Royal Society of South Africa has awarded her with a Four Outstanding Young South Africans Award in the form of the Meiring Naudé Medal. The National Research Foundation has honoured her with the President's Award while the University of Witwatersrand has given her the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award. Mizrahi is the two-time recipient of an international research scholar grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of the USA (2000 and 2005). She is one of only three scientists from Africa to have received this award.

Valerie Mizrahi is an associate fellow of the Academy of Sciences of the Developing World and is a member of the Medical and Health Sciences Committee of that academy. She is also a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa and a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa.