Since 2002, Prof. Loots has made a substantial contribution to the advancement of metabolomics, by means of developing much of the published methodology and applications in terms of identifying new markers for better disease characterisation, diagnostics and treatment. To date, his research has ideally equipped him for this highly relevant research focus, allowing the opportunity to become one of the global experts in the field of TB metabolomics.
In 2002, he was commended for being the first individual (internationally referring) to complete a Ph.D.based on the utilisation of metabolomics, which was also the approximate time-frame in which the term ‘metabolomics’ was internationally defined.
As part of his journey Prof. Loots applied this research strategy at numerous internationally acclaimed research institutions, including:
1) DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Biomedical Tuberculosis Research (Stellenbosch University) - identifying new biomarkers to characterise anti-TB drug action and side effects (2004);
2) Academic Medical Centre (Amsterdam University) - identifying metabolites in CTX patient serum for later use in developing improved neurodegenerative treatment strategies; and
3) Centre of Excellence for Nutrition (CEN), NWU - identifying various disease-associated oxidative stress markers.
In 2006, Biopad, a subsidiary of TIA, was tasked with establishing new omics technologies in South Africa. As such, the NWU biochemistry group was selected to host the NMP and subsequently utilized metabolomics to better characterise inborn errors of metabolism. In 2008, TIA insisted on broadening this application to diseases of high global prevalence and searched for an individual with the necessary expertise in both metabolomics and infectious diseases to ensure success.
Prof. Loots accepted their invitation as research director and subsequently established the research program - Metabolomics of infectious and acquired diseases, within the newly constructed research entity known as the FAHM. Major contributions/funds were required to set-up the specialized P3 metabolomics laboratories, acquire a vast array of highly specialised analytical equipment, develop the metabolomics methodologies and initiate a metabolomics research program which benefits from the contributions of 8 full-timeacademics, 18 technicians, 5 administrators, 5 international extraordinary professors, 40 B.Sc. Honours, 35 M.Sc., 30 Ph.D., and 5 post-doctoral students per annum. FAHM is also an international partner laboratory of Agilent Technologies,and the recognised leader in TB metabolomics research in Africa and various other international countries.