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Meet our new Research Development Fellows

Researcher at work

We are delighted to announce 2021’s cohort of Research Development Fellows!

Our fellowships support emerging African scientists to undertake a three to nine-month placement at a leading research organisation in Europe or Africa.

These placements enable talented early-career researchers to acquire advanced research skills, test their own research questions, develop highly effective mentoring relationships, grow a network of potential collaborators.

Our 15 new fellows represent 8 different countries across Africa: Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Africa. Their projects focus on a range of health issues from antibiotic resistance, malaria and cardiovascular disease, to waterborne pathogens and digital health. Click here to read their full profiles.

Understanding HIV patterns and epidemiology

Four of our new fellows are looking to develop their research skills to understand HIV (or related conditions), of which two thirds of cases occur in the sub-Saharan African region.

Dr Adam Abdullahi, from the Institute of Human Virology (Nigeria), is being hosted by the University of Cambridge (UK), and will be using genomics and computational sequencing methods to study HIV drug resistance patterns across sub-Saharan Africa. 

Dr Muzamil Olamide Hassan, from Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria), will carry out his placement at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) where he hopes to better understand kidney tubular dysfunction (KTD), which affects some patients receiving the anti-retroviral drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF).

During her placement, Dr Reshma Kassanjee from the University of Cape Town (South Africa), will visit research institutions in Austria and Germany and will acquire advanced statistical skills for HIV observational epidemiology, to investigate the complex relationship between HIV and non-communicable diseases.

Dr Danai Tavonga Zhou, from University of Zimbabwe, will be hosted by the Technical University of Munich (Germany), focusing on the early-life gut microbiome of breastfed infants with HIV, delivered by caesarean section, in low resource settings. She hopes the knowledge generated will be useful for designing new nutritional supplements for restoring gut health and ensuring healthy lives.

Tackling antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest growing threats to global health, which occurs when bacteria become resistant to certain treatments, often due to the overuse of antibiotics which can result in gene mutations.

Dr Adesola Olalekan from the University of Lagos (Nigeria) will undertake a placement at the University of Leeds (UK), using whole-genome sequencing to understand antibiotic resistance patterns in Staphylococcal infections, to gain insights into the pathogen’s genetics, mode of transmission, and mechanisms used to develop resistance to antibiotics in Nigeria.

During her placement at Nottingham Trent University, Dr Blessing Oyedemi from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture (Nigeria), will be developing research skills to investigate the antibiofilm efficacy of natural compounds against bacterial pathogens, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which causes serious infections. 

Fighting back against Malaria

Four of our fellows will be developing research skills to fight back against malaria, which is a deadly infectious disease caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. There were over 229 million cases of malaria in 2019 (94% of which were in the Africa region).

Dr Olusola Ajibayefrom Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, hosted by the Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit, The Gambia at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (MRCG-LSHTM), aims to develop his skills in malaria genomics and bioinformatics to understand antimalarial resistance, which is a rapidly growing challenge to malaria elimination. 

At the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) (UK), Dr Linda Anagu from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, will develop novel in-vitro culture protocols to help understand the factors influencing the outcome of Plasmodium falciparum infections.

Dr Judicaël Obame-Nkoghe, from University of Science and Technology of Masuku (Gabon), will also be focusing on mosquito transmitted diseases, but focusing on viruses rather than parasites. He aims to understand the Aedes albopictus mosquito invasion and the associated threat of arbovirus emergence in Central Africa. He will receive training at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Medical Research in Gabon and MIVEGEC unit of the Institute for Research for Development in France. 

Dr Amélé Nyedzie Wotodjo from VITROME Unit at IRD (Senegal), will be hosted by the MRCG-LSHTM, and will be studying the evolution of the P. falciparum in Dielmo, Senegal using molecular genetic tools.

The rising burden of non-communicable diseases

The prevalence of chronic and non-communicable diseases is rising around the world and threatens to be the next global epidemic. Examples of these diseases include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and mental illnesses.

Dr Christian Eseigbe Imafidon from Bowen University (Nigeria), will be hosted at MRCG-LSHTM, and his research is exploring new, non-invasive methods for diagnosing obesity-induced kidney injury, which is projected to grow by 40% across the globe in the next decade.

At the University of Cape Town, Dr Jerry Ochola from Moi University (Kenya), aims to develop a polymetric scaffold to use in heart operations, and investigate its mechanics, biocompatibility and biodegradability.

Eliminating rabies using dog vaccinations

Rabies can be eliminated through vaccinating 70% of susceptible dog population (the main transmitters). However, achieving even coverage can be difficult across large geographic areas.

Dr Manganga Burton Sambo, from Ifakara health Institute (Tanzania), will be hosted by the University of Cambridge (UK), to develop advanced computational algorithms to determine the number of dog vaccines needed to achieve herd immunity, and to measure coverage in poor-performing villages.

Developing digital tools for healthcare

Two of this year’s fellows are focusing on developing digital tools for healthcare in Africa.

Dr Pacifique Ndishimye, from Rwanda Biomedical Centre, will be hosted by The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (Rwanda), and is exploring the applications of artificial intelligence and digital health in healthcare delivery, hoping to monitor how diseases and medical interventions affect people and develop early warning signals for new disease epidemics.

Dr Anthony Sifuna, from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (Kenya) will be hosted by Imperial College London (UK), to develop a digital diagnostic tool for surveillance and monitoring of the waterborne pathogens that are responsible for many gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal infections in Africa. Current testing methods can take up to five days whereas these new technologies can provide an immediate indication of contaminated water.

We look forward to hearing about each of our fellow’s experiences in due course and wish them all the best for their placements.

Would you like to be in our next cohort of fellows?

If you would like to be in our next cohort of fellows, or know someone that would – apply NOW for our 2021/22 Research Development Fellowships.

Published: 14 June 2021