SA’s Omicron Prof Tulio recognised by TIME magazine

Professor Tulio de Oliveira.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira.

Published May 5, 2024


TIME Magazine has recognised Professor Tulio de Oliveira in its inaugural 2024 TIME100 Health list, a new annual compilation that celebrates 100 individuals who have had the most impact on global health this year.

This recognition, determined by TIME’s international network of editors, thought leaders, and previous honorees, marks De Oliveira’s second appearance in TIME’s influential rankings, following his previous inclusion in the 2022 TIME100 list of the world’s most influential people.

De Oliveira is a world-renowned scientist in the field of genomics. He is the director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation at Stellenbosch University, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and deputy director of the Genomic Surveillance Unit at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK.

Prof Tulio de Oliveira

In 2021, De Oliveira led a groundbreaking multidisciplinary team of researchers and scientists in the discovery of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which swiftly emerged as the dominant global variant of the virus.

In 2020, he led the team that discovered the SARS-CoV-2 Beta variant. In the last decades, De Oliveira has led multiple networks of scientists in South Africa and Africa and in 2023, he launched the Climate Amplified Diseases and Epidemics (CLIMADE) consortium, a global consortium to characterise diseases and pathogens that are amplified by climate change.

Commenting on this remarkable achievement, Professor Sibusiso Moyo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies at Stellenbosch, said: “Prof Tulio de Oliveira's tireless dedication to advancing scientific knowledge and his exceptional leadership in the field of genomics and bioinformatics exemplify the spirit of innovation and collaboration that defines our institution."

De Oliveira said: "I am deeply honoured to be recognised once again by TIME Magazine and to be included in the distinguished TIME100 Health list of 2024. This acknowledgement underscores the importance of collaborative research efforts in addressing global health challenges."

He expressed his gratitude, and added: “Once I saw that the Covid-19 pandemic was receding, I decided to work with our team of over 100 scientists in South Africa and with the largest genomics facility in the world, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, to create a new programme of work, this time to fight the multiple diseases that are being amplified by climate change, such as dengue, chikungunya, the Zika virus, influenza and cholera.”

Throughout his career, De Oliveira has garnered numerous accolades for his contributions to public health and infectious disease research – in addition to him being listed in Nature as one of the top 10 people who helped to shape science in 2021.

He was also included in the MIT Technology Review list as one of the leaders of the 10 breakthrough technologies in 2022. He was the recipient of the Lifetime Leadership Award from Discovery Health and has received the Order of Merit medal from the Portuguese president, the Gold Medal Award from the South African Medical Research Council, the Batho Pele Award from the South African government for his contributions to society and was winner of the German Africa prize in 2022.

His commitment to excellence and innovation continues to inspire colleagues and researchers worldwide.

De Oliveira is also professor of bioinformatics in Stellenbosch University’s School for Data Science and Computational Thinking and associated with the faculties of Science and Medicine and Health Sciences at the university.

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