Professor Catherine Orrell

Desmond Tutu HIV Centre

Professor Catherine Orrell MBChB MMed MSc (Clin Pharmacol) PhD (Cape Town)

Clinical Lead for the DTHF Centre for Adherence and Therapeutics (D-CAT); Pharmacokinetic Study Leader at the Groote Schuur Hospital Clinical Research Site, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences.

Catherine Orrell is a clinical pharmacologist and clinical trials specialist who has worked as principal and co-investigator in clinical research at the DTHF since 1998. She has been principal investigator on 20 clinical trials and sub-investigator on more than 30 trials of antiretroviral drugs, including a range of efficacy, toxicity, interaction and dosing studies. She has in-depth experience conducting research in both state-of-the-art research facilities at UCT, including the Groote Schuur CRS, which is a HPTN and HVTN-affiliated site, and the DTHF Clinical Trials Unit, as well as in primary healthcare clinic environments, where she leads a DAIDS-approved non-networked research site in Gugulethu, the DTHF Centre for Adherence and Therapeutics (D-CAT) within the Gugulethu community.

Catherine is an experienced HIV clinician who played an integral role in developing a number of HIV care and treatment services in the Cape Town area. Over the past 20 years of work in the antiretroviral field, she has developed a deep interest in factors promoting the success of antiretroviral therapy when delivered in a resource-poor setting to large numbers of people, including adherence, retention in care and task-shifting to other staff cadres.

The research at D-CAT focuses on novel methods to monitor and improve adherence to HIV and TB medication in a resource-poor setting, including through the use of electronic pillboxes and therapeutic drug monitoring. Here they use scalable interventions including text messaging, differentiated care, lay counselor-based motivational interviewing, and peer education to improve adherence and retention in typical South African ART (antiretroviral therapy) clinics; and it is at the confluence of novel approaches to therapeutics and medication adherence that the core of her research work at DCAT is focused.

Key areas of expertise: Adherence to ART, retention in HIV care and ART drug pharmacology and resistance.

Current research projects:

  • Viiv/Johnson and Johnson (PI: Orrell)                                                     01 Oct 2022 - 30 Sep 2025
    Use of long-acting injectable ART among Adolescent and Young Adults in South Africa (AFINaty)
  • EDCTP (TMA2019 SFP-2812 (PI: Orrell)                                                 01 Nov 2021 - 31 Dec 2025 Improving RETention and viral load outcomes for people taking Antiretroviral therapy through early IdentificatioN of missed doses.
  • NIH/R011MH125703-01A1 (PI: Orrell, Sabin)                                           01 Jul 2021 – 30 Jun 2026
    SUpporting Sustained HIV Treatment Adherence after Initiation
  • NIH/R01AI152119  (PI: Van Zyl, Orrell, Gandhi)                                        07 Jul 2020 – 30 Jun 2023
    Urine tenofovir point-of-care test to identify patients in need of ART adherence support (UTRA study)
  • NIH/R01AI122300 (PI: Orrell, Remien)                                                     01 Dec 2015 – 30 Nov 2022
    Use of ARV Drug Levels in DBS to Assess and Manage ART Adherence in South Africa (ADD-ART)

Selected publications:

See publications and profile on Research Gate.

Contact details:

The Desmond Tutu HIV Centre
Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine
University of Cape Town

3 Woodlands Road,
South Africa

Alternate site: