Medical Science Graduate Dreams of Helping Others
Ms Buyisile Chibi, who graduated from UKZN’s College of Health Sciences with a Masters in Medical Science degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, presented a thesis titled: “Computational Studies of Pentacyclo Undecane Peptide-based HIV-1 Protease Inhibitors”.
The study explored the conformational changes of the HIV protease flaps upon binding with different classes of pentacycloundecane (PCU) based cage peptide and peptoid inhibitors that were synthesised and tested for activity in the Catalysis and Peptide Research Unit at UKZN.
Chibi’s work revealed that investigated compounds, which were previously synthesised and biologically tested, showed significant results at the computational level.
‘Since the comparisons of the flap movement for both unbound enzyme (HIV protease) and the complexes were successful, a model can be built prior to synthesis. This model will help and guide researchers to understand how the new inhibitors behave in the active site thus saving time and money required for synthesis,’ said Chibi.
‘Among all the HIV infections in South Africa, approximately 95% are of subtype C strain. The core aim of this study was first to investigate the flap dynamics of the C-SA HIV-1 PR in its free (apo enzyme) and bound forms by applying molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, and second, to develop an effective computational model for the identification of potential novel PCU-based peptide HIV protease inhibitors, employing a structure-based virtual screening approach.’
According to Chibi, it is important for health scientists to develop continuous knowledge about the dynamics of HIV in order to develop effective methods of teaching people who are involved in HIV programmes as well as individuals who have interest in and are affected by the pandemic.
‘Experimental designs have different procedures and steps that may be followed in comparison to descriptive qualitative design. This has given me undisputable quality results. Where possible, the results should be accurate and quantitative-based to have explicit controlled results.’
She was supervised by Dr M Soliman, Professor G Kruger, Dr T Govender and Dr G Maguire.
Chibi currently works at Buckman Laboratories as a Graduate Development Trainee in Research and Development. She aims to be a Lecturer in Organic Chemistry.
‘Everyone is born with a dream, which will be a driving force throughout life. My dream was and is still to help others, especially the young generation, through teaching,’ she said.
Chibi, who comes from a family of six, said her parents always encouraged their children to study further and make a meaningful contribution to society.
‘I still remember my dad checking my books every day and that made me work harder at school,’ she said.
‘My standout achievements were in 2010 when I was the Best Honours student in Chemistry and the Best Student in Chemistry. In 2009 I was recognised as the Best Overall student in Chemistry and the Best Student in Chemistry III.
- Nombuso Dlamini