Menu Close

Dorsamy (Gansen) Pillay

Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) responsible for leading the Research and Innovation Support and Advancement, National Research Foundation


Dr Dorsamy (Gansen) Pillay is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) responsible for leading the Research and Innovation Support and Advancement (RISA) division of the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa. His career over more than three decades includes various academic, management and full professoriate positions at the former University of Durban-Westville and the Durban University of Technology in South Africa. He has spent time as Visiting Research Professor at Cornell University, USA; the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia; Goethe Universitat, Germany; and the Scottish Crops Research Institute in Invergowrie, Scotland. His academic and research leadership includes various portfolios that he occupied at institutional, regional, national and international levels.

Following completion of the B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons) and M.Sc. degrees, he obtained a post-M.Sc. qualification in Biophysics at the Weizmann Institute for Science in Rehovot, Israel, and a PhD degree in Microbiology from UD-W. He completed the International Executive Development Programme through WITS University, South Africa; the London School of Business; the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore; the Harvard Business School (HBS) Programme on “Maximising Your Leadership Potential” and the “Senior Executive Leadership Programme” through Harvard University, USA. Dr Pillay is a Harvard alumnus.

His research has focused on both prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms, from human diseases (bilharzia and gonorrhea) to bacterial plant diseases (ratoon stunting disease) with particular emphasis on elucidating the molecular architecture of the causal microorganisms with a view to understanding genetic diversity, extra-chromosomal elements and developing rapid disease diagnoses. He was appointed full Professor at both DUT and UD-W and has published scores of primary research papers, including several highly cited works in peer-reviewed international journals. Several higher degree students up to the postdoctoral level, have been successfully supervised under his leadership.

Dr Pillay is the recipient of numerous Professional and scholarly awards including, inter alia, the Weizmann Institute of Science Emerging Researcher Award, the Ernest Oppenheimer Trust Award, the Foundation for Research Development (FRD) Young Researcher Award and he was a National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) finalist for research capacity building in South Africa. He held an NRF rating for 16 years. He is/was a member of the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Phytopathology Society (APS) and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). On the international front, Dr Pillay is/was a member of (i) the Selection Committee for the Future Earth Engagement Committee; (ii) the International Steering Committee of the Global Research Council (GRC); and (iii) the Council of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria where he is currently the Vice Chair. He has served as the Regional Secretary of the Committee for Science and Technology in Developing Countries (Southern and East African region), has served on numerous committees of the International Council for Science (ICSU), and has been the SA delegate to the preparatory WSSD meetings in the USA and Indonesia. He has also co-authored the position paper for Sustainable Development with researchers from Harvard University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico and wrote the position papers on “Capacity Building in Developing Countries” and “Meeting the MDGs: Challenges facing developing countries”.

Dr Pillay has an intimate knowledge of South Africa’s Higher Education and Training landscape, the National System of Innovation (NSI), and the challenges facing research and researchers in South Africa and internationally. He was the former Chair of (i) the SA National Board of the International Council for Science (ICSU); and (ii) the SA National Committee of the International Union of Microbiology Societies (IUMS).

His academic and research leadership includes various portfolios he occupied at institutional, regional, national and international levels. These include, inter alia, Past President and Past Vice-President (SA Society for Microbiology), Chairman on numerous NRF committees, and Voting Delegate or alternate Voting Delegate for South Africa at six ICSU and two IUMS General Assemblies. He served on the Editorial Board of the South African Journal of Science and is a reviewer for various international journals. He is a former Trustee and Board member of LifeLab (a Biotechnology Innovation Centre of the DST) and Chair of its Project Investment Committee. Dr. Pillay is/was an Honorary Research Professor at UKZN and the DUT in South Africa. He is currently a member of the Institute of Directors of South Africa (IoDSA).


  • –present
    Honorary Professor School of Biochemistry, Genetics & Microbiology, University of KwaZulu-Natal