Lecturer in Organic Chemistry at Mangosuthu University of Technology’s (MUT) Faculty of Natural Sciences, Dr Ayanda Magwenyane, said it was a dream come true to graduate with a PhD from UKZN.
His study employed a molecular dynamic simulation approach to explore heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) as an anti-cancer target for drug discovery.
Passionate about saving lives and easing South Africa’s disease burden, the 31-year-old from the rural community of eNadi, Kwamnyandu in Pietermaritzburg explained that although cancer is a complicated disease, most human cancers share basic features such as self-supply of growth signals, resistance to growth inhibitors, evasion of programmed cell death, unlimited replication potential, prolonged angiogenesis, and tissue invasion and metastasis.
Co-supervised by senior lecturers in Medicinal Chemistry at UKZN Drs Hezekiel Kumalo and Ndumiso Mhlongo, Magwenyane’s novel research was informed by a remarkable number of Hsp90 client proteins being involved in the development of cancer cell characteristics. ‘Hsp90 is a molecular chaperone that is conserved from bacteria to humans and facilitates the maturation of substrates (or clients) that are involved in many different cellular pathways,’ he said.
His study found three new potent Hsp90 inhibitors (ZINC15905860, ZINC13120102 and ZINC20411962) to be stable in the binding site. Society stands to benefit from this research as it contributes to an overview of the various computational models used in the development of anticancer medicines.
‘It was not an easy journey. The COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the middle of the study, and much motivation was required to keep going amidst the trauma and the lockdowns,’ said Magwenyane. He added that his supervisors kept him motivated. ‘I also made sure that I participated in the workshops and retreats offered by UKZN to learn how to succeed and survive while studying.’
A devout Christian, when not hard at work, he enjoys reading and watching informative documentaries and movies. ‘I also like to talk to young people, motivating them that they should always strive to become better than yesterday.’
Words: Lunga Memela
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan