William R. Bishai is the first permanent director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH).
Prior to joining K-RITH, Bishai was co-director of the Center for Tuberculosis Research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he has worked since completing a postdoctoral fellowship with Nobel Prize winner Hamilton O. Smith in 1994.
Bishai’s research has focused on understanding how and why the tuberculosis bacillus has been so successful at infecting humans. Understanding the fundamental interactions that occur between the microbe and human cells is a critical step in developing new drugs or vaccines to treat tuberculosis. “If one wants to target the infection with drugs, knowing the mechanisms of pathogenesis is an important roadmap for making those drugs,” Bishai says. He plans to use the same strategy at K-RITH to develop new, quicker, and cheaper tools for diagnosing TB infection.
Bishai received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1981 and a master’s degree from Cambridge University two years later. He returned to Harvard to earn both his medical degree and doctorate in 1989. He completed his fellowship training in the division of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute postdoctoral research fellow in Smith's laboratory.
He is the author of more than 150 papers in peer-reviewed journals, and receives grant support from the National Institutes of Health. He serves on several editorial boards and review panels. He is the co-chair of the World Health Organization's Working Group for New TB Drugs, which is part of the Stop TB Partnership.
Bishai will retain an appointment and research programme at Johns Hopkins. He, his wife, and their four children moved to Durban, South Africa, in 2011.
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