Daniel Sheward

Scientific Officer, UCT

University of Cape Town (UCT) doctoral student Daniel Sheward has been an integral part of a pioneering study aimed at beating South Africa’s bête noire, HIV.

“Vaccines represent the best tools we have to control infectious diseases and have saved hundreds of millions of lives.

“However, HIV has proven to be an unprecedented challenge and has sent vaccinologists back to the drawing board,” he says. “In broad terms, I am trying to understand the immune response, particularly the development of antibodies, to HIV in infected individuals, and to use this to inform the design of a next generation of vaccines.”

Born and raised in Durban, Sheward studied for a BSc in biomedical science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal before moving to Cape Town for postgraduate studies at UCT. His academic career shows a certain single-mindedness: honours in infectious diseases and immunology, master’s in medical virology, training at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg and now a doctorate wrestling with HIV.

“I was passionate about science and simply wanted to be involved in an important field. Infectious diseases sounded rewarding.  South Africa had been hit hard with HIV and Aids so I started out in an HIV lab at UCT and haven’t looked back.”

The 27-year-old has some role models. “It is often a few people who improve the lives of millions, who change the world for the better. It’s those people who inspire me. People like Maurice Hilleman, John Enders, Louis Pasteur, Edward Jenner and many others.

“I also have a huge amount of respect for Bill Gates – I hope to be able to do a fraction of the good he is doing.”

Despite his involvement in research projects that have been published in Nature Medicine and Nature, Sheward says he’s still working on racking up outstanding achievements.

Asked where he aims to be in 10 years’ time, he says: “Wherever I am, I hope to have a better answer to: ‘What would you say are your greatest achievements?’” — Mandi Smallhorne