From Humble Beginnings to PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry
The Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Health Sciences, Professor Mahmoud Soliman, applauded Dr Ndumiso Mhlongo of Eshowe who graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
Mhlongo matriculated at Mafunda Secondary School and completed UKZN’s Science and Engineering Foundation Programme in 2003.
He attained his bachelor’s and honours degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Zululand (UniZulu), before returning to UKZN where he completed his Master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry summa cum laude at Soliman’s Molecular Modelling and Drug Design Laboratory.
Mhlongo’s PhD thesis, titled: “Insight into Glycosidases using Bioinformatics and Molecular Modelling Tools”, produced invaluable insight to understanding the dynamics of glycosidase enzymes – catalysts of the hydrolysis of a bond joining a sugar of a glycoside to an alcohol or another sugar unit. ‘This may contribute significantly to the design of potent inhibitors targeting GH enzymes implicated in the orchestration of disease and disorders,’ he explained.
‘I come from a rural area so to have my work recognised internationally is an ideal example for illustrating to upcoming scientists from disadvantaged backgrounds that, with hard work and dedication, nothing is impossible.
‘I’d like to thank UKZN’s College of Health Sciences for funding my MSc and the NRF for funding my PhD,’ he said.
Mhlongo, once a Graduate Assistant and part-time Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry at UKZN, says his field of work includes chromatography, gene expression, protein purification, molecular modelling, drug design and bioinformatics software applications.
He was a S2A3 Medal nominee for the highest achieving MSc student in the College of Health Sciences in 2014, presented a research article at a CHPC National Meeting held at Skukuza also in 2014, received a certificate for presenting a research study at a Pharmacy Conference in Cape Town in 2013, and received a certificate for presenting a research study at UniZulu’s 3rd Annual Science and Agriculture Symposium in 2009. Mhlongo has submitted five co-authored papers to international peer-reviewed journals.
‘He is a dedicated researcher with an ability to impart knowledge and is currently mentoring masters and PhD students in my research laboratory,’ said Soliman. ‘His focus areas are in molecular modelling of drug targets and design of inhibitors against infectious diseases and disorders, including tuberculosis and diabetes, through the application of advanced computational chemistry tools.’
Mhlongo said viral resistance to effective HIV-1 protease inhibitors, coupled with adversities in compliance with laborious treatment protocols, had become a great obstacle which required a unique strategy for the design of new (GH) inhibitors. He has submitted a post-doctoral research proposal to Soliman’s lab examining the potential of Glycoside Hydrolases (GH) as HIV entry inhibitors and a cure for AIDS.