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An Enterprising female Scientist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal

2009/10/29 12:09:11 PM

Professor Thirumala Govender, leading researcher in Pharmaceutics and her students have in the past few weeks received several accolades in recognition of excellence in research. From UKZN’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, the team has been recognized both nationally and internationally for their work in the development of novel drug delivery systems for the buccal route. Professor Govender was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship and completed a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Pharmacy (Pharmaceutics) at the University of Nottingham (UK), the top ranked Pharmacy school for research in the UK. Currently she is one of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s leading scientists and heads up the Drug Delivery Research Unit based on the Westville Campus. Her principal area of research is the design and evaluation of novel drug delivery systems,


At the recent 5th International Conference on Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, Professor Govender was jointly awarded the Adcock Ingram Best Research Publication Award in Pharmaceutics from the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences of South Africa. The paper was evaluated by both local and international judges. The paper entitled, “Formulation of monolayered films with drug and polymers of opposing solubilities”,  was published in International Journal of Pharmaceutics . It featured research findings of her masters student, Ms Velisha Perumal who graduated cum laude in 2007 . The aim of the study was to prepare and characterise novel monolayered multipolymeric films comprising of a hydrophilic drug (Propranolol HCI) (PHCI) and polymers of opposing solubilities for delivery via the buccal route.  The study used a new method of film preparation and identified optimal polymeric blends to provide improved improved mucoadhesion on the mucosa and controlled drug release kinetics. The various physicochemical and mechanical tests on the delivery system confirmed the potential of this monolayered multipolymeric film, as a promising candidate for controlled buccal drug delivery.


Honours level student Ms Razeena Khan moved to South Africa about eight years ago from Canada and feels “blessed” to be working with an individual that is so professional and devoted to the students as Professor Govender is. Ms Khan said, “Professor Govender doesn’t spoon-feed the students and at the same time is accessible to provide guidance and mentorship. She teaches us in a way that we’re able to understand the concepts and hence the performance of all her students are always par excellence”.


In addition to the above awards this year, Prof Govender has also been awarded funds from the Goho Life Sciences International Fund in Japan to be a Distinguished Visiting Scientist at Tohoku University, one of the leading universities in Japan,  She will be embarking on this visit to share and learn new techniques in nanotechnology for drug delivery systems. The Department of Science and Technology has also invited her to teach at their first national Nano Summer School later in the year.  She was also specifically invited by the University of Western Cape a few weeks ago to participate in the development of the first MSc degree in Nanotechnology in South Africa. Prof Govender believes that the above achievements in recent weeks have been due to a collective team effort and therefore sincerely acknowledges her postgraduate students including task supervisor Mr Sanjeev Rhambarose, local and international collaborators including Dr Irene Mackraj from the School of Medical Sciences and the Biomedical Resources and Electron Microscopy Unit at UKZN, MRC, NRF, Aspen, CAPRISA/Gilead Sciences/CONRAD and laboratory support staff for their invaluable contributions.


Prof Govender is currently the elected Vice Chair of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences of South Africa and has also been appointed on the Pharmaceutical and Analytical Committee of the Medicine Control Council of South Africa. She is also a member of the College of Health Sciences Women in Leadership and Leverage committee and is devoted to mentoring young health scientists at UKZN. She is the recipient of several other national awards for recognition of excellence in both teaching and research such as the Johnson and Johnson Distinguished Teacher award and the Roche achievement and Adcock Ingram awards for the Best Research Publication in Pharmaceutics. Prof Govenders research has been published in more than 30 internationally accredited journals and presented at several local and international conferences.  Her dedication and enthusiasm in the field of pharmaceutics is unrivalled and as a woman she is paving the way for future scientists in the fields of buccal drug delivery and nanotechnology.

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