Moagi Shaku is a VALIDATE Network Affiliate and PhD Candidate at the Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research, Witwatersrand University, South Africa. In this VALID8 interview, Moagi talks about the importance of creativity and his work on the next generation of TB Vaccines.
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1 - What do you do/what do you research?
I study the Mycobacterial cell wall biochemistry in an attempt to identify new drug targets and to find novel strategies to develop new TB vaccines.
2 - What do you tell non-scientists you do?
TB remains the leading cause of death worldwide due to a single infectious bacterium. So, I am working on next generation TB vaccines to replace the old BCG vaccine.
3 - What has been your greatest success to date?
I have made a modified BCG vaccine aimed at enhancing trained innate immunity, a growing field in TB research aimed at developing a vaccine that primes both the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system against TB infection.
4 - What, for you, is the most exciting thing that could emerge from your vaccine research?
Creativity is all about being able to see associations where others do not. With that in mind, the modified BCG vaccine we have developed could outperform all previously designed vaccine candidates against TB infection in terms of efficacy, safety and cost of production because our vaccine is a live-whole cell vaccine and is designed to target both the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.
5 - What is the most interesting thing you have learned in your job?
Mycobacteriology is very diverse and this allows TB researchers to be creative in all attempts to develop ways to eradicate the TB disease.
6 - What is the best part of your job?
Combining all aspects of molecular biology, microbiology, high-tech microscopy and immunology to develop innovations to eradicate TB.
7 - What is the most challenging part of your job or research?
To develop new ideas that no-one else has ever tested to develop a vaccine against the most successful and deadly disease in human history.
8 - Why are vaccines important (particularly in your field)?
The “End TB strategy” of the World Health Organization aims to reduce the annual incidence of TB by 2035. A TB vaccine will make a significant contribution to the fight against TB, particularly in developing countries given that there is a huge rise of drug resistant TB.