Dion du Plessis

Dion du Plessis

M.Sc Immunology, PhD

Dr Dion du Plessis holds an M.Sc in Immunology and a PhD from the University of Cape Town. Starting with an investigation in the 1970s into the use of chemically modified bacteriophages as a means of detecting extremely low concentrations of immunoglobulins in immune serum, he has been engaged in research into various aspects of natural and recombinant antibodies for over 30 years.

He has lectured in microbiology, virology and immunology at the universities of Stellenbosch and Fort Hare. In the course of a year spent at the University of California he was involved in a viral genome sequencing project and also presented laboratory classes in immunological methods. After leaving academia, he spent the remainder of his career at the world-renowned veterinary research institute at Onderstepoort. Here he managed programmes that carried out research aimed at developing a new generation of veterinary vaccines and immunodiagnostic methods.

This presented an opportunity for him to pursue his interest in recombinant antibodies and antibody engineering and led to the creation and patenting of a large and diverse repertoire of phage displayed antibody fragments based on chicken immunoglobulin genes, popularly described as an “immune system in a test-tube”. This library has yielded useful high-affinity antibodies, some of which have been incorporated into a number of practical immunodiagnostic tests.

In the course of his career Dr du Plessis has collaborated with numerous local and international research institutes and consulted for a well-known antibody biotechnology company located in southern California. He has now retired from full-time employment.

A list of some relevant publications resulting from his research at Onderstepoort follows:

Opperman PA, Maree FF, Van Wyngaardt W, Vosloo W, Theron J. (2012) Mapping of antigenic determinants on a SAT2 foot-and-mouth disease virus using chicken single-chain antibody fragments. Virus Res. 167:370-9.

Sixholo J, Van Wyngaardt W, Mashau C, Frischmuth J, Du Plessis DH, Fehrsen J. ( 2011) Improving the characteristics of a mycobacterial 16 kDa-specific chicken scFv. Biologicals 39:110-6.

Wemmer S, Mashau C, Fehrsen J, van Wyngaardt W, du Plessis DH. (2010)
Chicken scFvs and bivalent scFv-C(H) fusions directed against HSP65 of Mycobacterium bovis. Biologicals 38:407-14.

Chiliza TE, Van Wyngaardt W, Du Plessis DH. (2008) Single-chain antibody fragments from a display library derived from chickens immunized with a mixture of parasite and viral antigens. Hybridoma (Larchmt). 27:413-21.

Fehrsen J, van Wyngaardt W, Mashau C, Potgieter AC, Chaudhary VK, Gupta A, Jordaan FA, du Plessis DH. (2005) Serogroup-reactive and type-specific detection of bluetongue virus antibodies using chicken scFvs in inhibition ELISAs. J. Virol Methods. 129:31-39

van Wyngaardt W, Malatji T, Mashau C, Fehrsen J, Jordaan F, Miltiadou D, du Plessis DH. (2004) A large semi-synthetic single-chain Fv phage display library based on chicken immunoglobulin genes. BMC Biotechnol. 2004 Apr 1;4:6.

Van Wyngaardt W, Du Plessis DH. (1998) Selection of an scFv phage antibody that recognises bluetongue virus from a large synthetic library and its use in ELISAs to detect viral antigen and antibodies. Onderstepoort J Vet Res. 1998 65:125-31.