Georgia Schäfer

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] 

Education

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 (edctp.org))
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:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/1Xub9lbuncqou8/bibliography/public/

Lambarey H, Blumenthal MJ, Chetram A, Joyimbana W, Jennings L, Orrell C, and Schäfer G (2024). Reactivation of Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) by SARS-CoV-2 in non-hospitalised HIV-infected patients. The Lancet-eBioMedicine (100): 104986. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2024.104986.

Tibenderana RM, Blumenthal MJ, Bukajumbe E, Schäfer G and Mohamed Z (2024). Clinical Significance of Elevated KSHV Viral Load in HIV-Related Kaposi’s Sarcoma Patients in South Africa. Viruses (16): 189. doi:10.3390/v16020189.

Lemmer Y, Chapman R, Abolnik C, Smith T, Schäfer G, Hermanus T, du Preez I, Goosen K, Sepotokele KM, Gers S, et al (2024). Protective efficacy of a plant-produced beta variant rSARS-CoV-2 VLP vaccine in golden Syrian hamsters. Vaccine S0264-410X(24)00036-7. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2024.01.036

de Moor WRJ, Williamson AL, Schäfer G, Douglass N, Gers S, Sutherland AD, Blumenthal MJ, Margolin E, Shaw ML, Preiser W, et al (2023). LSDV-Vectored SARS-CoV-2 S and N Vaccine Protects against Severe Clinical Disease in Hamsters. Viruses (15): 1409. doi:10.3390/v15071409.

Margolin E, Schäfer G, Allen JD, Gers S, Woodward J, Sutherland AD, Blumenthal MJ, Meyers A, Shaw ML, Preiser W, et al (2023). A plant-produced SARS-CoV-2 spike protein elicits heterologous immunity in hamsters. Front Plant Sci 14: 1146234. doi:10.3389/fpls.2023.1146234.

Chinna P, Bratl K, Lambarey H, Blumenthal MJ and Schäfer G (2023). The Impact of Co-Infections for Human Gammaherpesvirus Infection and Associated Pathologies. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 24: 13066. doi:10.3390/ijms241713066

Jahajeeah D, Ranghoo-Sanmukhiya M and Schäfer G (2023). Metabolic Profiling, Antiviral Activity and the Microbiome of Some Mauritian Soft Corals.  Mar Drugs 21(11):574. doi: 10.3390/md21110574.

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.

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.

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

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 and Schäfer G (2019). Surfactant Protein A Impairs Genital HPV16 Pseudovirus Infection by Innate Immune Cell Activation in A Murine Model. Pathogens8(4):288. doi: 10.3390/pathogens8040288.

Blumenthal MJ, Schutz C, Barr D, Locketz M, Marshall V, Whitby D, Katz AA, Uldrick T, Meintjes G and Schäfer G (2019). 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 220(5):841-851. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiz180.

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

Blumenthal MJ, Schutz C, Meintjes G, Mohamed Z, Mendelson M, Ambler JM, Whitby D, Mackelprang RD, Carse S, Katz AA and Schäfer G (2018). 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 56:133-139. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2018.08.005.

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