Collen Masimirembwa
Collen Masimirembwa.jpg
BornCollen Masimirembwa
EducationUniversity of Zimbabwe
OrganizationAfrican Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology
AwardsHUGO Africa Award (2018)

Professor Collen Masimirembwa is a Zimbabwean who has founded and leads the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST). Currently, he is the President of the African Pharmacogenomics Consortium (APC). His research focuses on pharmacogenetics and clinical pharmacology. He demonstrated the clinical relevance of Africa’s genomic diversity, especially with respect to the safe use of anti-retroviral drugs. He is a Distinguished Professor of Health Sciences (Witwatersrand University, South Africa), and a Fellow of the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences and the African Academy of Sciences. He received many awards including the HUGO Africa Award (2018). Prof. Masimirembwa studied at the University of Zimbabwe and the Karolinska Institute, Sweden (PhD). After having worked for AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Company as a Principal Scientist for about 10 years, he returned to Africa.[1]


Collen Masimirembwa is a pioneer of pharmacogenetics research in Africa and continues to champion its development to clinical applications. He conducted the first molecular genetic studies in African populations in the early 90s leading to the discovery of the African specific CYP2D6 genetic variant, CYP2D6*17. Over the past 25 years he has endeavored to integrated pharmacogenetics in the drug discovery and development value chain with a particular interest in understanding the genomic diversity of African populations and its implications for drug safety and efficacy. He has published over 90 original papers on the metabolism & pharmacokinetics of antiparasitic drugs and on the population genetic polymorphism of ADME genes in Africa. This has allowed him to combine pharmacokinetics modeling & simulation and molecular structural & functional studies of genetic variation of ADME to bridge basic genetic polymorphism research to clinical applications. This research has led to the award-winning pharmacogenetics test and dosing algorithm for the safe use of the antiretroviral drug, efavirenz (EFV). The product, GeneDoseÒ-EFV is now under commercial development.

To build capacity for pharmacogenomics research in Africa Collen has used his institute and extensive international network of collaborators to train Masters and PhD students in Africa, who are, in their various settings conducting basic and translational pharmacogenetics research. This has culminated in an EDCTP (European and Developing Countries Clinical Trial Partnership) training grant to initiate a 2-year Master’s degree in Genomic Medicine and Molecular Diagnostics, whose first intake will be in January 2019. Towards this, Collen is appealing for support from the international pharmacogenetics community to assist with mentorship and opportunities for research project attachment for students of this MSc program through AiBST’s Virtual Global Faculty program.[2]


Collen Masimirembwa graduated with an Honours degree in Biochemistry (1989) and completed DPhil studies in Biochemistry (1993) at the University of Zimbabwe focusing on the metabolism of anti-parasitic drugs. The work led to the elucidation of the metabolism of the anti-schistosomicidal drug, praziquantel. Fascinated by the then emerging field of pharmacogenetics, he conducted studies leading to a PhD in Medical Biochemistry & Biosphysics (1995) at the Karolinska Institute (Sweden) focusing on pharmacogenetics in African populations.[3]


After a 2 year postdoctoral fellowship at Uppsala University (Sweden) he worked for 10 years at AstraZeneca, Sweden, as a Principal Scientist in Pharmacokinetics and Bioanalytics. With the help of industry and international organizations, he founded the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) with the aim of promoting the sciences and technologies of drug discovery and development in Africa. He is currently the President and Chief Scientific Officer of AiBST. He has over 75 original publications in peer reviewed journals, 5 book chapters and co-edited a book on Drug Discovery in Africa. He has conducted pioneering work in predictive pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenetics in preclinical and clinical drug discovery research, contributions which have been recognized through various awards, memberships to various international organizations, expert consultancy to companies & organization such as WHO, and invitations to make keynote presentations at international meetings. He has a passion for training postgraduates and have trained 10 PhD students and several masters students to completion. He believes that innovative hybridization of industrial and academic approaches has a chance to jumpstart biomedical developments in Africa.

Research and Publications

He has over 20 years experience in genetics, genomics, bioanalytical chemistry and drug discovery & development research. Published over 80 original research papers in international peer reviewed journals, 5 book chapters and co-edited a book on Drug Discovery & Development in Africa published by Springer.

A Principal Scientist at AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Company (1998-2007) and founding President and Chief Scientific Officer of the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (2002 -2007 part time, 2007-now full time). Honorary Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), Visiting Lecturer at the University of Nairobi and Part-time Lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. Consultant Scientist for three major international Pharmaceutical companies.

  • Discovered the genetic basis of defect metabolic capacity of African populations for many medicines in clinical use
  • Founded the first integrated drug discovery and development institute in Africa, AiBST, which was selected as a centre of excellence by WHO-TDR and by the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDi)
  • Established the first and currently only DNA Testing Laboratory in Zimbabwe
  • Training of postgraduates (MSc & PhD) scientists
  • Genomic Medicine Research in HIV, TB, Malaria, Schistosomiasis, Cancer, and Cardiovascular Disease.
  • Certificate of Distinction in Biochemistry by the Government of Zimbabwe
  • Fellow of the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences (ZAS)
  • Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS)
  • Many awards for research presented at national and international conferences
  • Research & Education Grants from international organizations including WHO, CDC, TWAS, EU, EDCTP, AstraZeneca, Merck, Novartis and ISP.[4]



  1. [1], EDCTP, Accessed: 06 April, 2020
  2. [2], Pharmacogenomics Research Network, Published: 2 January, 2018, Accessed: 6 April, 2020
  3. [3], wcop, Accessed: 6 April, 2020
  4. [4], The Conversation, Accessed: 6 April, 2020