Wits University has appointed Professor Lynn Morris as the deputy vice-chancellor of research and innovation to further strengthen the institution’s leading role in research and vaccine analysis on the continent.
The university already boasts a world-class Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics (VIDA) research unit. Early this year the unit conducted the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial in South Africa whose findings revealed that the AstraZeneca vaccines provided minimal protection against mild-moderate Covid-19 infections from the so-called South African variant of the virus.
Last year Wits was ranked first in Africa in the 2020 Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU), placing it in the 200-300 band out of about 25 000 universities in the world.
The university has also deployed its senior academics to serve in the Data Analytics Centre with the department of health looking at projections on how the virus evolves and how to deal with it effectively.
Morris, who brings with her vast experience in research management and leadership, will be at the helm for five years. Her main priority will be to drive the research agenda as the university approaches its centenary in 2022.
Her peers describe her as an accomplished researcher and a global scholar. In addition, they admire her collaborative leadership style and ability to create an enabling research environment.
Morris has served in leadership roles on various national and international bodies. Some of these include the International Scientific Advisory Committee of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine at the University of Cape Town, the Poliomyelitis Research Foundation, and the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise based in New York.
Before joining Wits, Morris was at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) where she recently completed a three-year term as the interim executive director. She successfully led the NICD to deal with two major health crises, namely the listeria outbreak between 2017 and 2018 and the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Morris is a Wits alumna and has held joint appointments as a research professor in the school of pathology, faculty of health sciences at Wits, head of the HIV virology laboratory in the centre for HIV & STIs at the National Health Laboratory Service, and the NICD. She is also an honorary senior scientist at CAPRISA (Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa).
As a National Research Foundation A-rated scientist, Morris belongs to a select few of the most highly cited scientists in the world. She is globally recognised for her work in understanding the antibody response to HIV and is responsible for conducting validated end-point assays for HIV vaccine clinical trials.
Morris has also won several accolades and these include: