Host organisation: University of Cape Town, South Africa
Project title: Identification of drug leads for the treatment of malaria and schistosomiasis by medicinal chemistry optimization of pyridobenzimidazole derivatives
Dr Godfrey Mayoka lectures at the School of Pharmacy, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya. He completed his doctorate in the field of drug discovery in 2018 at the University of Cape Town, and aims to continue his research on alternative lead compounds for treating malaria and schistosomiasis.
AREF Fellowship research project:
Dr Mayoka says “In sub-Saharan Africa, the leading burdens of parasitic disease are malaria and schistosomiasis. Parasites evolve resistance to existing drugs and some drugs are toxic in some patients. This is why resistance and toxicity are prevailing challenges to containing these infections with medicines. Better drugs are an obvious route to reducing those burdens.
“My dream is that African researchers like myself will spearhead collaborative and multidisciplinary drug discovery projects within the continent. The AREF Fellowship will enable me to consolidate my skills and expertise in drug discovery at a leading research centre. It is a great stepping-stone for me in tackling significant health problems by contributing to developing new drugs to improve and save African lives.”
Dr Mayoka’s fellowship was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He undertook his placement at the University of Cape Town from November 2021 to July 2022 and completed his fellowship in October 2022.
“This AREF Fellowship has been a timely and the best occurrence, yet, in my career, after attaining my PhD. I have engaged in various drug discovery projects and consolidated important skills and competencies that I am confident of contributing to a rapid growth in my career. Through this Fellowship, I have created new research connections, and strengthened existing ones, which I believe will quicken my achievement of drug discovery research goals. I have been able to support my colleagues at the School of Pharmacy, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, in scientific article writing, in addition to supervising and mentoring undergraduate students in their research projects. This motivation has stemmed from my own successes in attaining five publications since starting my Fellowship and there are several other manuscripts at different stages of development. It has been very fulfilling to be able to publish peer reviewed scientific articles with my undergraduate students, a testament to good quality supervision and healthy supervisor-student relationship.
It is during my Fellowship that I have been offered the opportunity to support the Masters in Medicinal Chemistry class at the Kenya Medical Research Institute Graduate School. Teaching a course in which one is practically involved is a whole lot different from only rehearsing what is available in reference materials – and students can tell the difference!
Funding from the Fellowship has facilitated the purchase of laboratory reagents and consumables for the Departmental research laboratories. These resources will contribute to the research output by both faculty and students. I will be embarking on a range of drug discovery research projects including promoting evidence-based practice of traditional and alternative medicine. Collectively, this Fellowship has seeded a robust foundation to build on in my career and for the advancement of better health for the African people and beyond, through research.“