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Institute Director and Research Chair: Biotechnology Prof Jeanine L Marnewick

JLMarnewickFor the past 20 years her research has focussed on scientifically substantiating the bio-activities of two proudly South African herbal teas, rooibos and honeybush, and understanding how these can have a positive impact on the prevention of non-communicable diseases, with focus on cancer and heart disease.

She is specifically motivated by the immense detrimental effect non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are having on mortality rates, currently on the rise not only on the African continent but worldwide. She has a dual focus, that of cancer, which contributes 21% to all NCD-related deaths and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) which contributes a further 48% to the NCD mortality rate (WHO, 2012) with specific interest in the role oxidative stress plays in the aetiology of them. It was and still remains clear that this increasing burden calls for further innovative strategies to effectively combat the trend. As existing prevention and treatment strategies have proven insufficient, the realization that using dietary components with relevant effectiveness offers an exciting prospect to reduce the global burden imposed by NCDs.

Communication of research outcomes to the public is very important to her as she feels strongly that biomedical research should not only address relevant community health problems but ultimately also be applied to improve the overall health of our communities. The relevance of her work to the South African population and the rest of the world, who also consume these herbal teas, is a definite strength and a great deal of effort to disseminate this information to the general public is continually made from her side. She is a popular invited speaker at national and international events which includes scientific conferences, public forums, trade shows, media events, schools, agricultural communities and product launches educating and sharing their novel results about rooibos.