Employing institution: Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Nigeria
Host institution: Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine
Project title: Developing capacity in viroinformatics to understand chronic hepatitis B viral mutagenesis and tackle viral suppression in Africa.
Dr Azuka Patrick Okwuraiwe with a background in biochemistry, is interested in infectious diseases and has experience in molecular aspects of HIV/hepatitis B and C. He obtained his PhD from the University of Lagos, Nigeria and is currently a Senior research fellow at the Nigerian Institute of Medical research (NIMR).
His research interests include developing cheap drug resistance testing assays and understanding the molecular basis of drug resistant hepatitis B.
Dying from viral hepatitis in Africa is becoming a large threat than. Despite this fact the disease remains neglected in many parts of the continent. It is estimated that in the African region over 70 million people were living with chronic hepatitis B infection in 2021, with 1.5 million new infections each year, which resulted in an estimated 200,000 deaths, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Can viroinformatics be employed to predict and manage outcomes of resistant chronic hepatitis B, and what genetic factors elicit hepatitis B viral mutagenesis, drug resistance and suitability? Viroinformatic tools and softwares, can be used to analayze and sequence hepatitis B data, which will better inform drug managemen and enhance the treatment of chronic hepatitis B in Nigeria.
Dr Okwuraiwe will work with Dr Gibril Ndow, AREF 2020 RDF Fellow who coordinates PROLIFICA (Prevention of Liver Fibrosis and Cancer in Africa) research program in The Gambia and Senegal, and Dr Abdul Karim Sesay of Genomics to build his viroinformatics skills, with support from the Information technology department. Working with the hepatitis B research team on Disease Elimination and Control, at MRCG-LSHTM, he will gain adaptable skills that can be transferred to the hepatitis treatment programme at NIMR. His fellowship will enhance his DNA sequencing and viroinformatic technical skills and generating key empirical data to inform design of larger studies to guide hepatitis B treatment in the African region. He was inspired to compete for the AREF award by a colleague and former awardee, Dr Olusola Ajibaye. After his placement, he wants to setup a lab space and facilitate access to technical and administrative support for further research, and transfer skills acquired after fellowship placement. NIMR has an excellent track record in carrying out health-related research.
“The AREF fellowship is a tremendous opportunity to sharpen my research acumen and capabilities to understanding and mitigating the challenge of infectious diseases like hepatitis B.”