James Gear Awardees


James Henderson Sutherland Gear, the second son of John Gear was born in Germiston, 8th April 1905. He received numerous awards in recognition of his vast and extensive contribution to medical science. Amongst these were the Chalmers Medal of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the Bruce Memorial Medal of the American College of Physicians.

James Gear
His prodigious research output of over 200 scientific publications included a wide spectrum of infectious diseases. These include the first and remarkably accurate description of the haematological condition of onyelai in South Africa. He was a scientist well ahead of his time. His descriptions of auto-immune reactivity decades before the pathogenesis of auto-immune diseases became known was remarkable for its time. Similarly his postulate of a viral cause of serum hepatitis (hepatitis B); in the late 1940’s was some 20 years ahead of the discovery of hepatitis B virus by Nobel Laureate, Baruch Blumberg. He had an abiding love for tropical diseases and made many groundbreaking contributions e.g. malaria and blackwater fever, bilharzias, relapsing fever and many others. He was the first in the world to describe coxsackie B myocarditis in newborns – now a major serious infection of newborn infants.

With all of these honours and achievements, he remained a humble, modest and dedicated doctor and generous teacher. His qualities were well described by his long-time friend Tom Weller, who won the Nobel price for Medicine in 1954 and wrote in the special SAMJ Festschrift put together for Prof Gear’s 80th birthday:-
“The year 1952 was scientifically and personally eventful. In the laboratory the application of the new cell culture techniques for the cultivation of viruses was revealing a host of new human pathogens and the groundwork was underway for the introduction of a poliomyelitis vaccine. The personal event was the opportunity to work with Dr James Gear for two months at the South African Institute for Medical Research. The experience was unique.Half the time was spent at the laboratory bench growing viruses; the balance was spent in the field or on the wards where I was given a stimulating and authoritative introduction to a broad spectrum of infectious diseases, ranging from malaria to tick typhus and from schistosomiasis to plague. The emphasis was epidemiological with prevention and control dominant. Neither before nor since have I encountered an infectious disease specialist who has through personal experience acquired expert knowledge of such a spectrum of pathogenic agents.

In the interim since 1952, Dr Gear, characteristically ever-inquisitive, has continued to expand his spectrum of expert knowledge; his authoritative contributions in the area of the African haemorrhagic fevers are but one example. We have been fortunate at Harvard is having James Gear as a frequent visitor and remember with admiration his contributions to our teaching programme in 1969 when he was a Visiting Professor. In introducing Dr Gear before a lecture I have often termed him the contemporary “Leonardo da Vinci” of research in the infectious diseases”.

Closing dates: 28 February; 15 September each year

  • The award which is at present R 350,000 + flight (one year), is for outstanding candidates to enable them to develop their research careers in overseas academic institutions.
  • The fellowship is a prestige award made only to those eminently well qualified to receive it.
  • Those eligible for the award are postgraduates with at least a medical degree or degree in veterinary sciences or a doctorate degree in the sciences or equivalents
  • Detailed motivation including the candidates curriculum vitae and motivating letter from the supervisor or head of the department, detailed research proposal approved by the head of department and by the overseas host institution are required
  • This Fellowship will be awarded to outstanding candidates to enable them to develop their research careers internationally in academic institutions
  • Potential applicants may need to be interviewed by members of the Scientific Advisory Panel
  • Fellows will be required to give an undertaking to return to South Africa for at least 3 years upon completion of their research projects internationally.
Project Participants Purpose Year of study
Dr BM Mabvakure Nat Institute for Communicable Diseases Investigating the role of migration and morbidity in the transmission of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa (John Hopkins) 2019
Dr MM Kgatle University of Cape Town Characterisation of de novo DNA methyltransferase 3A and 3B mutants, and elucidation of their mechanisms in action 2017
Dr J Bhiman Nat Institute for Communicable Diseases Development of immunogens and immunization regimens for the elicitation of HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies 2016
Dr KB Alexandre Nat Institute for Communicable Diseases Studies of Antiviral Lectins Promising HIV-1 Topical Microbicide Candidates 2012/13
Dr S Saayman University of the Witwatersrand Developing a T-cell targeted aptamer linked to activating siRNAs to purge latent HIV-1 reservoirs 2010
Dr ME Coetzer Nat Institute for Communicable Diseases Determinant of CXCR4 usage in HIV-1 subtype C isolates 2006
Dr MS Weinberg University of the Witwatersrand Generating small interfering RNA (siRNA)-expression vectors targeted to inhibit HIV-1 2003
Dr L Morris Nat Institute for Virology Aspects of HIV humoral immunity 1996
Dr C Gray University of the Witwatersrand HIV-specific cellular therapy with primed dendritic cells and allogeneic HIV specific HLA matched cytotoxic T-lymphocytes 1995
Dr E van der Ryst Univ of the Free State The genetic engineering of new live recombinant vaccines using an attenuated mengovirus strain as vector 1994
Dr PB Arbuthnot University of the Witwatersrand Molecular hepatitits research 1992
Dr A Williamson Univ of Cape Town Research project on human papillomavirus 1990
Mr AD Steele Medunsa Rotavirus vaccine development programmes 1990
Dr WF Carmen Nat Institute for Virology Various clinical virological projects 1988
Dr MLB Becker Stellenbosch University Analysis of the genomic arrangement of T-cell receptor genes and their flanking regions in T-cell hybridomas and T-cell lymphomas 1985
Dr AM Di Bisceglie University of the Witwatersrand Studies on viral hepatitis 1984
Dr FE Berkowitz University of the Witwatersrand A study of paediatric infectious diseases caused by herpes virus group (immune response, diagnosis and therapy) 1982
Dr A Kidd Nat Institute for Virology Investigation of the role of fastidious enteric adenoviruses in the aetiology of infantile gastroenteritis in South Africa 1981
Dr JW Moodie Univ of Cape Town Development of molecular virological diagnostic technologies 1978
Dr BD Schoub Nat Institute for Virology Early studies of rotavirus gastroenteritis 1977