On International Women’s Day (today – 8th March), we highlight the achievements of Melissa Marx, an MSc medical biochemistry student in the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), who is conducting ground-breaking research in the field of cervical human papillomavirus (HPV) with the assistance of the GCRF START grant. HPV is the cause of most cervical cancer cases amongst women worldwide. Melissa’s research into HPV, which forms part of a larger departmental programme, was funded by the GCRF START grant which provided access to the UK’s world class national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source.
Marx’s research focused on visualising the effect of an enzyme found within the reproductive tract on the structure of the virus, as it occurs during the infection process. To achieve this, she and fellow researchers studied HPV pseudoviruses (non-infectious and synthetic viruses) using laboratory-based techniques, structural biology and computational work.
Melissa hopes that her findings will set a strong foundation as scientists work towards discovering preventative and therapeutic options for HPV infection to decrease the high burden of HPV infection in South Africa, on the continent and around globe. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women worldwide.
“Without the help of the GCRF START grant, much of my research would not have been possible. The grant enabled me to apply cutting-edge structural biology techniques to gain insights into the structure of HPV,” she said.
“I was also incredibly fortunate to have collected data at the Electron Bio-Imaging Centre at Diamond Light Source in the United Kingdom. This was only possible with funding from the GCRF START grant.”
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