Prof Mark Cotton recently became the fourth researcher at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) to obtain a prestigious A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF).
Cotton, who is the Director of the Children’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit (Kid-Cru) at the FMHS and the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital (TCH), is an internationally acclaimed specialist in the field of paediatric infectious diseases with extensive experience in managing HIV-infected children. Researchers with an A-rating are recognised by their peers as leading international researchers.
He has led the Kid-Cru team in a number of randomised clinical trials in children, including two studies on antiretroviral therapy (ART) strategy and isoniazid prophylaxis and antiretroviral (ARV) pharmacokinetics in HIV-infected children. The majority of the studies he is involved in are funded through the International Maternal Paediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trial Group (IMPAACT). “We see the research as a powerful tool to extend and improve clinical care,” Cotton says.
Cotton attributed this accolade to the valuable input and support of the team he works with. “I am deeply indebted to our team, without whose commitment nothing would have been possible.” He says the Kid-Cru team is very excited about the A-rating and the recognition has boosted morale. He explains that the team has many members including investigators, drivers, cleaners, secretaries, nurses, project managers, pharmacists and a logistics, finance and HR manager - each playing an important role in the successes of the unit.
Cotton acknowledged the efficiency of the infrastructure in which Kid-Cru operates as key to their successes. “The FMHS provides valuable intellectual, financial and legal assistance; the TCH facilitates our work and allows us to integrate with essential health services; and the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health is highly supportive and we are able to use the expertise of colleagues to add further value to our work,” he explains.
Cotton completed a three year fellowship in paediatric infectious diseases at the University of Colorado-Denver, and also conducted laboratory-based research on apoptosis in paediatric HIV under the supervision of Dr Terri Finkel at the National Jewish Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Immunology. On return to Stellenbosch University and TCH, he completed a PhD on the role of apoptosis in paediatric HIV infection. He has since been conducting a number of multicentre trials focusing on TB and HIV in children.He has been a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) technical task teams on HIV staging, ART and guidelines for TB in children since 2004.