Our team

Our diverse and talented team thrives on multidisciplinary collaboration, forging local and global partnerships that push the boundaries of neuroscience. We emphasize the value of truly translational, bench-to-bedside work that always seeks to answer research questions that meaningfully impact the lives of patients.


We aim to attract the brightest minds from within neuroscience and outside its borders, and expose them to novel opportunities in our group. Our students and trainees are placed in junctional positions between intersecting disciplines. As such, they receive teaching from, and exposure to, varied disciplines which include brain physiology and chemistry, pharmacology, inflammation, neuropsychology, neurosurgery, neuroimaging, cancer biology, bioinformatics, genomics, and public health.


Our team is supported by the facilities and experts at the University of Cape Town’s Neuroscience Institute, a unique resource on the African continent that brings together clinicians and researchers interested in human neuroscience. We collaborated widely throughout UCT (including with Pharmacology, Human Biology, Psychiatry, Neuropsychology, Paediatrics, Radiology, and the Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine Institute), and have attracted diverse grant funding through CANSA, the Wellcome Trust, the South African Medical Research Council, the National Research Foundation SARChI Chair of Clinical Neurosciences, the National Institute for Health and Care Research in the United Kingdom, and the National Institutes of Health in the United States of America. Our international collaborators include John’s Hopkins University, George Washington University, Vanderbillt University, Tufts University, Imperial College, the University of Cambridge, the Francis Crick Institute, Erasmus University, Leiden Medical Centre, and Radboud University.



Anthony Figaji

Professor Anthony Figaji

Professor of Neurosurgery, South African National Research Foundation SARChI Chair of Clinical Neurosciences – Prof Figaji is the Director of ABC, Head of Paediatric Neurosurgery, and Principal Investigator on ABC research projects.

Ursula Rohlwink

A/Professor Ursula Rohlwink

Senior research scientist – A/Prof Rohlwink is a Wellcome International Intermediate Fellow and Principal Investigator on numerous projects. Her interests include neurocritical care, brain injury due to trauma and infection (with a focus on TBM).

Dr Nqobile Thango

Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon – Dr Thango’s interests include TBI, neurocritical care and antibiotic PK in children with brain infections.

A/Professor Nico Enslin

Senior consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon – A/Prof Enslin’s interests include paediatric neurosurgery, functional neurosurgery, epilepsy, movement disorders, and deep brain stimulation.


We foster a holistic approach in basic and clinical neuroscience with a diverse set of skills, resources, and insights used to answer key questions about the brain.


We try to achieve a circular sequence in our approach: our journey begins at the bedside where we identify crucial research questions; these are developed through innovative clinical and laboratory-based scientific methods; our findings fuel real-world change in clinical care; and responses to those changes then generate new insights and questions.


Our unusual combination of a large burden of disease and sophisticated infrastructure places us in a prime position to be a world-leading centre for studying the paediatric brain. Along the way we learn important principles about how the brain functions. We focus on children but believe one cannot understand the adult brain without understanding how it developed. The secrets of the brain’s potential, and perhaps its vulnerability to disease in later life, reside in the paediatric brain.


Our worldview is intentionally broad -We believe that studying mechanisms in the brain cannot be divorced from understanding genetic diversity and environmental influences; that studying a molecular pathway in the brain can inform, and be informed by, clinical insights from individual patients; and that how we care for patients and how we engage the public can be advanced by scientific approaches.


Our multidisciplinary approach is rare. Basic neuroscientists and clinicians who study or treat brain conditions commonly work in isolated silos. This misses great opportunities to go beyond studying proxies of the living brain in a laboratory, and even more importantly, great opportunities to develop meaningful research that has direct benefits to real people. Merging unusual clinical opportunities, such as access to rare samples directly from the brain and a critical mass of patients, with the best clinical and laboratory technologies available creates a unique environment.


The study of the brain in childhood has particularly high value. The stakes in childhood diseases are higher, so discovering mechanisms of injury that will unlock better therapies has greater potential to save lives and limit disability over a long lifespan.


Further, there is increasing evidence that cerebral diseases in later life may be linked to events earlier in life – one cannot understand the adult brain without understanding where it came from. Studying cerebral plasticity and development in children may unlock greater insights into the native and nascent potential of the human brain.


This high-level exploration of the brain is rare in an African context. We believe that there are compelling strategic advantages in this endeavour: to build capacity in an important but neglected area in African research, to change the lives of patients under our care, and to develop unique insights that advance the care of patients across the world.