Trevor Sewell studied Physics and Applied Mathematics at Wits. This led to an MSc under the supervision of Sheila Saffer on the structure of the protein layer of the erythrocyte membrane. During this time, he met Tom Blundell who agreed to supervise his PhD in Protein Crystallography at Birkbeck, London. On his return to South Africa in 1980 he lectured in Biochemistry at the University of Cape Town for ten years. In 1991 he was then given the opportunity to re-establish the Electron Microscope Unit at a time when three-dimensional reconstruction of protein molecules by the “Single Particle Method” was being invented. He was able to work in this field while being mentored by Helen Saibil at Birkbeck and ultimately set up South Africa’s first cryo-Electron Microscope with the assistance of the Wellcome Trust. He established a successful Masters programme in Structural Biology that attracted students from all over Africa, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The structures that he has determined have had relevance as potential drug targets or as industrial enzymes. He has contributed, over three decades, to the current understanding of the structure and mechanism of enzymes of the nitrilase superfamily. He is currently the national co-ordinator of the bioscience component of START (Synchrotron Techniques for African Research and Technology) led by the Diamond Light Source.
Structure determination of macromolecules has, without question, revolutionized the understanding of biochemistry. Insights obtained from the atomic structures of protein molecules, in addition, find application in drug design, the design of pesticides and herbicides and in industrial enzymology for drug manufacture. Investment in the discipline of Structural Biology in South Africa is urgently needed to stimulate our national efforts in both medical science and biotechnology.
|Start Date||Name Details||Location||Price||Status|
|18 January 2019||
From gene to protein crystal
|1 Madiba Circle, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch||This event has passed|