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His Royal Highness Prince of Wales visits MRC Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

His Royal Highness has visited MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM as part of his tour to celebrate the country’s return into the Commonwealth in February 2018.
Caption: His Royal Highness Prince of Wales and MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM Director Professor Umberto D'Alessandro. Credit: MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM

This was the Prince of Wales’ first trip to The Gambia after the Commonwealth Heads of Government unanimously decided in April this year that he should succeed Her Majesty The Queen as the Head of the Commonwealth.

Upon arrival, His Royal Highness and his team were welcomed by Unit Director Prof Umberto D’Alessandro. The first stop of the tour was the Ida Secka Entomology Laboratory where Dr. Davis Nwakanma, Head of Laboratory Services, explained how the facility investigates the dynamics and determinants of malaria infection. The laboratory also supports controlled human malaria infection studies that allow malaria vaccine candidates and new antimalarial treatments to be tested efficiently, and enables the Unit to engage and collaborate on other vector-borne and emerging diseases such as the Zika virus.

Professor Andrew Prentice, Nutrition Theme Leader, then welcomed His Royal Highness to the Biobank, a repository of human and pathogen biological materials such as blood, saliva, urine and bacterial cultures from research projects. The stored samples provide invaluable support for scientific research for disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. A major component of the biobank is the DNA bank, the first in sub-Saharan Africa, which supports studies on the genetics of complex diseases.

His Royal Highness and his team then visited the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory which hosts DNA and visualization of genetic differences and similarities. This enables disease diagnosis, identification and characterisation of patterns of interest which provide accurate and timely identification of pathogens, guiding the choice of intervention or vaccines to control outbreaks.

The visit concluded with eight poster presentations from the Unit’s staff showcasing work ranging from Early Kangaroo Mother Care and life-saving vaccines in pregnancy, to saving newborns from infections and stunting.

Professor Umberto D'Alessandro, Director of MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, said: “It is an honour and a pleasure to welcome to our Unit His Royal Highness and his team. I hope we have been able to communicate our passion and commitment for the work we are doing. The Unit’s broad research portfolio is built around issues of public health importance in sub-Saharan Africa, and our work aims at providing new solutions to improve the health of the local populations.

“Moreover, the Unit is investing considerable resources for the training of young African scientists and the capacity building of sister institutions across West Africa. All this is possible, among others, thanks to the support we receive from the MRC UK.”

Last year a visit by His Royal Highness Prince Harry’s to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine led to global HIV leaders committing to ensure young people affected by HIV/AIDS play an integral part in shaping new research and policies to strengthen HIV prevention, testing and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa.