Georgia Schäfer

Georgia Schafer

Group Leader, Virology – Emerging Viruses
International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
Wernher and Beit Building (South) UCT Campus, Anzio Road, Observatory 7925
Cape Town, South Africa
E-mail: [email protected] 


Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, PhD in Molecular Biology, 2003

Career History

Since 2023, Honorary Associate Professor, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Since 2023,  Adjunct Member of the IDM, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Since 2020, Group leader Virology-Emerging Viruses, ICGEB Cape Town, South Africa
Since 2020, EDCTP Senior Fellow, University of Cape Town, South Africa – (TMA2018SF-2446: Georgia Schafer – International partnerships against infectious diseases (
Since 2015, Associate Member of the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), University of Cape Town, South Africa
2010-2019, Research Officer/Lecturer, Division of Medical Biochemistry, University of Cape Town, South Africa
2003-2009, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Cape Town, South Africa
2000-2003, PhD student, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany
1999, MSc student, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany
1994-1998, undergraduate student, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany

Scientific Activity

Research activities in our group primarily focus on oncogenic viruses relevant in the Sub-Saharan African context, an area that is additionally burdened by an HIV/AIDS epidemic of massive proportions. We have built substantial research expertise on the early molecular mechanisms of Kaposi’s Sarcoma Herpes Virus (KSHV) and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection, both viruses being associated with AIDS-defining malignancies, namely Kaposi’s sarcoma and cervical cancer, respectively. We are particularly interested in the molecules and receptors involved during early infection events that can potentially be developed into preventative and therapeutic targets. Our research involves both basic laboratory-based in vitro and in vivo studies (using recombinant KSHV virus or HPV virus-like particles, respectively, together with appropriate cell and/or animal models) as well as clinical studies involving nationally recruited patient cohorts. Most recently, we have started to extend our research to targeting the entry mechanisms of SARS-CoV2 into human cells.

Teaching Activity

Since 2011, BMedSc (Honours) module “Transcriptional Regulation in Development and Disease”
2016-2018, Medical Biochemistry lectures (2nd and 3rd year MBChB)
2016, Molecular Medicine “Oncology” lectures (3rd year MBChB)

Selected publications

For complete list of published work see MyBibliography:

Lesmes-Rodriguez LC, Lambarey H, Chetram A, Riou C, Wilkinson RJ, Joyimbana W, Jennings L, Orrell C, Jaramillo-Hernandez DA and Schäfer G (2023). Previous exposure to common coronavirus HCoV-NL63 is associated with reduced COVID-19 severity in patients from Cape Town, South Africa. Front Virol (3):1125448. doi: 10.3389/fviro.2023.1125448.

du Bruyn E, Stek C, Daroowala R, Said-Hartley Q, Hsiao M, Schäfer G, Goliath RT, Abrahams F, Jackson A, Wasserman S, Allwood BW, Davis AG, Lai RP, Coussens AK, Wilkinson KA, de Vries J, Tiffin N, Cerrone M, Ntusi NAB; HIATUS consortium; Riou C and Wilkinson RJ (2023). Effects of tuberculosis and/or HIV-1 infection on COVID-19 presentation and immune response in Africa. Nat Commun 14(1):188. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-35689-1.

Khan SF, Burmeister CA, Scott DJ, Sinkala M, Ramburan A, Wu HT, Schäfer G, Katz AA and Prince S (2023). TBX3 promotes cervical cancer proliferation and migration via HPV E6 and E7 signaling. Mol Cancer Res: MCR-22-0598. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-22-0598.

Lambarey H, Blumenthal MJ, Chetram A, Joyimbana W, Jennings L, Tincho MB, Burgers WA, Orrell C and Schäfer G (2022). SARS-CoV-2 Infection Is Associated with Uncontrolled HIV Viral Load in Non-Hospitalized HIV-Infected Patients from Gugulethu, South Africa. Viruses 14(6):1222. doi: 10.3390/v14061222.

Burmeister CA, Khan SF, Schäfer G, Mbatani N, Adams T, Moodley J and Prince S (2022). Cervical cancer therapies: Current challenges and future perspectives. Tumour Virus Res 13:200238. doi: 10.1016/j.tvr.2022.200238.

Blumenthal MJ, Lambarey H, Chetram A, Riou C, Wilkinson RJ, Schäfer G and the HIATUS Consortium (2021) Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus, but not Epstein-Barr virus, co-infection associates with coronavirus disease 2019 severity and outcome in South African patients. Front Microbiol (12):795555. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2021.795555

Margolin E, Verbeek M, de Moor W, Chapman R, Meyers A, Schäfer G, Williamson AL and Rybicki E (2022). Investigating Constraints Along the Plant Secretory Pathway to Improve Production of a SARS-CoV-2 Spike Vaccine Candidate. Front Plant Sci 12:798822. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.798822.

Riou C, Schäfer G, du Bruyn E, Goliath RT, Stek C, Mou H, Hung D, Wilkinson KA and Wilkinson RJ (2021). Rapid, simplified whole blood-based multiparameter assay to quantify and phenotype SARS-CoV-2 specific T cells. Eur Respir J: 2100285. doi: 10.1183/13993003.00285-2021.

Carse S, Lang D, Katz AA and Schäfer G (2021). Exogenous Vimentin Supplementation Transiently Affects Early Steps during HPV16 Pseudovirus Infection. Viruses (13): 2471. doi: 10.3390/v13122471

Carse S, Bergant M and Schäfer G (2021). Advances in Targeting HPV Infection as Potential Alternative Prophylactic Means. Int J Mol Sci 22(4):2201. doi: 10.3390/ijms22042201.

Van der Meulen E, Anderton M, Blumenthal MJ and Schäfer G (2021). Cellular Receptors Involved in KSHV Infection. Viruses 13(1):118. doi: 10.3390/v13010118.

Anderton M, van der Meulen E, Blumenthal MJ and Schäfer G (2021). The Role of the Eph Receptor Family in Tumorigenesis. Cancers (Basel) 13(2):206. doi: 10.3390/cancers13020206.

Blumenthal MJ, Cornejo Castro EM, Whitby D, Katz AA and Schäfer G (2020). Evidence for altered host genetic factors in KSHV infection and KSHV-related disease development. Rev Med Virol e2160. doi: 10.1002/rmv.2160

Ujma S, Carse S, Chetty A, Horsnell W, Clark H, Madsen J, Mackay RM, Watson A, Griffiths M, Katz AA, Schäfer G. Surfactant Protein A Impairs Genital HPV16 Pseudovirus Infection by Innate Immune Cell Activation in A Murine Model. Pathogens. 2019 Dec 6;8(4):288. doi: 10.3390/pathogens8040288. PMID: 31817644

Blumenthal MJ, Schutz C, Barr D, Locketz M, Marshall V, Whitby D, Katz AA, Uldrick T, Meintjes G, Schäfer G. The Contribution of Kaposi’s Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus to Mortality in Hospitalized Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Patients Being Investigated for Tuberculosis in South Africa. J Infect Dis. 2019 Jul 31;220(5):841-851. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiz180. PMID: 31004430

Kaschula CH, Tuveri R, Ngarande E, Dzobo K, Barnett C, Kusza DA, Graham LM, Katz AA, Rafudeen MS, Parker MI, Hunter R, Schäfer G. The garlic compound ajoene covalently binds vimentin, disrupts the vimentin network and exerts anti-metastatic activity in cancer cells. BMC Cancer. 2019 Mar 20;19(1):248. doi: 10.1186/s12885-019-5388-8. PMID: 30894168

Blumenthal MJ, Schutz C, Meintjes G, Mohamed Z, Mendelson M, Ambler JM, Whitby D, Mackelprang RD, Carse S, Katz AA, Schäfer G. EPHA2 sequence variants are associated with susceptibility to Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus infection and Kaposi’s sarcoma prevalence in HIV-infected patients. Cancer Epidemiol. 2018 Oct;56:133-139. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2018.08.005. Epub 2018 Aug 31. PMID: 30176543

Jacobs BA, Chetty A, Horsnell WGC, Schäfer G, Prince S, Smith KA. Hookworm exposure decreases human papillomavirus uptake and cervical cancer cell migration through systemic regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition marker expression. Sci Rep. 2018 Aug 1;8(1):11547. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-30058-9. PMID: 30069018

Blumenthal MJ, Ujma S, Katz AA, Schäfer G. The Role of Type 2 Diabetes for the Development of Pathogen-Associated Cancers in the Face of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic. Front Microbiol. 2017 Nov 29;8:2368. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.02368. eCollection 2017. PMID: 29238337

Schäfer G, Graham LM, Lang DM, Blumenthal MJ, Bergant Marušič M, Katz AA. Vimentin Modulates Infectious Internalization of Human Papillomavirus 16 Pseudovirions. J Virol. 2017 Jul 27;91(16):e00307-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00307-17. Print 2017 Aug 15. PMID: 28566373

Ujma S, Horsnell WG, Katz AA, Clark HW, Schäfer G. Non-Pulmonary Immune Functions of Surfactant Proteins A and D. J Innate Immun. 2017;9(1):3-11. doi: 10.1159/000451026. Epub 2016 Oct 29. PMID: 27794581

Schäfer G, Blumenthal MJ, Katz AA. Interaction of human tumor viruses with host cell surface receptors and cell entry. Viruses. 2015 May 22;7(5):2592-617. doi: 10.3390/v7052592. PMID: 26008702