On Friday, 02 June, the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Information Centre Johannesburg in partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand, supported by the Federal Foreign Office, hosted the Falling Walls Lab Johannesburg 2023.
This international competition promotes interdisciplinary connections between aspiring academics, innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and professionals, known for their excellent work.
The 2023 Falling Walls Lab Johannesburg event consisted of fifteen finalists hailing from different universities across South Africa. Each finalist were given 3 minutes to pitch their ground breaking ideas to an esteemed panel of experts consisting of representatives from the Department of Science & Innovation, South African German Chamber of Commerce, BBraun South Africa, Sibanye Stillwater, the University of Johannesburg, the University of Pretoria and the University of the Witwatersrand. The jury had the tough task of selecting the most promising innovative ideas based on the breakthrough factor, the relevance and the impact the idea may have in science and society.
With just an hour of pitches, walls begsn to fall as we got to hear from some of the brightest minds who shared their proposed solutions to address some of the most pressing challenges we are facing in society, from Breaking the Wall of the 40-hour work week to Breaking the Wall of Disease & Stigma.
Following an intense jury deliberation session, three young innovators impressed the jury with their research ideas.
Alisha Badal, a PhD student at the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of the Witwatersrand was crowned the winner of the Falling Walls Lab Johannesburg 2023 for her project, “Breaking the Wall of Limited Cancer Treatment”. Her work explores the harnessing of advanced molecular gene editing techniques to treat Triple-negative breast cancer with BRCA mutations that are aggressive with heightened susceptibility to other cancers.
Second place went to Kate Da Silva, a PhD student with the Advanced Drug Delivery Platform Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand with her idea on “Breaking the Wall of the Trauma Pandemic”. Her project is to design a 3D-printed, biodegradable construct to assist in the regeneration of tissue after trauma.
Yolanda Mncongo, a Master’s student at Nelson Mandela University’s DSI Mandela Nanomedicine Platform and Department of Environmental Health, came in third place with her research on “Breaking the Wall of Nosocomial Infections” using green-synthesized nanoparticles combined with plant extracts, both of which have antimicrobial properties and can be used to kill pathogens found to be common causative agents of nosocomial infections.
Alisha Badal will represent Lab Johannesburg at the Falling Walls Science Summit in Berlin this November, competing alongside all 2023 international Lab winners for the title, Breakthrough Winner of the Year 2023.