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Prof Derek Ndinteh explores Natural Product Chemistry during his professorial inauguration address

The professorial inauguration for Professor Derek Ndinteh, took place on Monday, 05 August 2023 at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

Prof Ndinteh, a Professor of Applied Chemistry in the Department of Chemical Sciences, addressed dignitaries including the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UJ, Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi and the Dean (Acting) of the Faculty of Science, Professor Reinout Meijboom as well as invited guests.

The topic of his address “Unveiling Nature’s Tapestry, trailblazing Nature’s Mosaic: Honoring Influences,  Achievements, and a Vision in Natural Product Chemistry – A Professorial Inauguration” explored the complex tapestry of influences, collaborations, achievements, and visions that have shaped Professor Ndinteh’s journey in Natural Product Chemistry.

How Chemistry meets Life

Professor Ndinteh used his lecture to highlight the gains made by the broader industry which include:

  • Advances in research aimed at the treatment of diabetes
  • Studying phytochemistry of over 50 medicinal plants from Africa
  • They have isolated characterized and described over 120 novel chemicals compounds
  • Synthesized over 100 analogues of naturally occurring compounds
  • Identified over 100 bioactive plants extracts from various medicinal plants
  • Able to find applications for their compounds in antibiotic therapy, cancer therapy, solar management, solar energy, anti-viral therapy and others


He then took the opportunity to thank all the individuals that had played a role in his development from his time as a visiting student, and now as a scientist. These have included close friends and colleagues as as well as his family; his wife Mrs Emelda Ndinteh, his children Hector Sedibe, Surprise Khoza, Joseph Ndinteh, Emilia Ndinteh. His niece, and nephew Mark and  Manzi, The Nlend Likeng family.

He concluded with a heartfelt letter that he penned to South Africa which he credits for the opportunity to grow as a scientist.

“The opportunities I’ve found here to work and develop myself as a scientist have been invaluable. I have been able to engage with a community that shares my passion, learning from esteemed colleagues, and contributing to the scientific pursuits that have long inspired me,” he said.

Prof Ndinteh added that it is here that he was supported to grow: “Your beautiful country has not only provided me with a job but has also offered a context in which I can thrive, innovate, and explore. The support I’ve received from institutions, colleagues, friends, and neighbours has been nothing short of extraordinary.”

Prof Ndinteh’s experience and leadership roles

Prof Ndinteh was introduced into the world of Natural Product Chemistry by his father and mentor, Professor Zacharias Tanee Fomum DSc. After a first degree awarded by the University of Buea, he joined the research team of Professor Fomum, where he obtained two Master’s degrees in Organic Chemistry and Medicinal Organic Chemistry from the University of Yaounde 1. He enrolled for a Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor ZT Fomum, which he obtained in 2010. Prof Ndinteh then completed three years of Postdoctoral Fellowship under Professor Rui Werner Macedo Krause’s supervision, after which he worked for LECO Africa as an application specialist covering sub-Saharan Africa in Separation Science.

He joined the University of Johannesburg in 2015 as a Senior Lecturer and started the Drug Discovery and Smart Materials Research Group. In exploring bioactive compounds occurring in medicinal and rare plants, carrying out hemi-syntheses, and synthesizing these compounds for various applications, over 140 publications, three patents, and three commercialization projects have been produced. He has supervised/ is supervising over six Postdoctoral, 12 Doctoral, and 35 Master’s students. As a full professor at the University of Johannesburg, he is the founding Director of the Centre for Natural Product Research. Prof Ndinteh leads teams in projects within the community bringing chemistry to the community with a contextualized approach to educating the future scientist of tomorrow, especially in historically disadvantaged communities.

Watch the inauguration below:

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