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Research Staff

Associate Professor Gasnat Shaboodien

Senior Research Officer

021-4066615 | gasnat.shaboodien@uct.ac.za

Associate Professor Gasnat Shaboodien is the current director of the cardiovascular genetics research laboratory, of which she has been group leader since 2013 (the unit was originally led by Professor Bongani Mayosi) . She is a trained molecular geneticist with her main areas of interest being the genetics of inherited cardiac diseases, HIV-associated cardiomyopathy and other rare disorders. Her research aims to discover the genetic causes of inherited heart diseases that cause sudden death or that require heart transplants. This has involved the study of rare families with monogenic disease (i.e. inherited cardiomyopathies and arrhythmogenic disorders), and the delineation of the genetic architecture of complex traits associated with sudden death (such as cardiac hypertrophy). In 2009 her team reported the first multicenter study on the clinical characteristics, survival experience, and profile of PKP2 gene mutations in patients with ARVC (heart disease) from the African continent.

In 2013 they found a new gene (FAM111B) as the cause of a newly reported disease called hereditary fibrosing poikiloderma and then in 2017 they made headline news when they discovered a new gene (CDH2) as the cause of sudden cardiac death in ARVC. A/Prof Shaboodien and her team have also recently established the first zebrafish unit at the University of Cape Town (UCT), thereby introducing the zebrafish as a new disease model at UCT. She is a co-investigator on many large international studies and also occupies the role of laboratory director and molecular geneticist in all these studies which include (1) RHDGen, which is a large H3Africa study involving seven centers and 6000 samples (Cape Town, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya and Sudan) across Africa (2) IMHOTEP, which is a new consortium that was established in 2015 to study the clinical characteristics, causes, treatment and outcome of 750 cardiomyopathy cases over the next 10 years and (3) PROTEA, a congenital heart disease study aiming to recruit over 1200 samples across multiple centers. She has supervised over fifteen postgraduate students from Hons. to PhD level, many of them graduating with high honors and cum laudes


Mrs Olivia Briton

Project Co-ordinator

​021-4066358 | olivia.briton@uct.ac.za

I was born in Port Elizabeth and brought up on a Dairy farm in the Eastern Cape. Schooling meant being a boarder at schools in Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth. I moved to Cape Town after school to train as a nurse at Victoria Hospital in Wynberg, and thereafter I worked at Groote Schuur Hospital and specialised in Oncology. I ran the Gynaeoncology Chemotherapy unit for five years before moving to the UK in 1997, here I started my career in Medical Research at St Bartholomews Hospital, London, as the Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Research nurse. In 2000 I moved back to Cape Town and worked as the project Co-Ordinator for the ‘Khayelitsha Cervical Cancer Screening Project’ at UCT, managing various research studies to prevent Cervical Cancer. I’ve now joined HICRA as the Research Project Co-Ordinator and am working on the B-A-HEF study.


Ms Carmelita Abrahams

Intern NRF

Email: carmelita.abrahams@uct.ac.za

I am passionate about the field of physiology and research. Therefore, I pursued a BscHons and MSc in Physiology at Stellenbosch University.  I am currently employed as an NRF intern at the HICRA with the cardioprotection research group supervised by Prof Sandrine Lecour. As part of the internship I will learn different techniques and assigned a project that will investigate lipoprotein profile in HIV patients. 


Mrs Lameez Pearce

Research Assistant

021-406 6554 | Lameez.pearce@uct.ac.za

Joined the cardiovascular genetics team in 2012 as a research assistant. Main roles in the laboratory include genetic screening for mutations in patients with heart disease and DNA extractions from various biological samples.

Ms Janine Saaiman

​Research Assistant


I’m originally from Cape Town. I’ve been working since 2000 in multiple Administrative roles that range from SARS to Law Firms. I finally found myself working at UCT since 2011. My journey began working in the Mayosi Research Group as a Secretary in the Old Main Building of Groote Schuur Hospital.  In 2015, under the same group I was promoted to a Research Assistant in the Hatter Institute’s Cardiovascular Genetics (CVG) Team.

The philosophy that has brought me so far, is that every accomplishment starts with a decision to try.