Prof Andrew Prentice, Theme Leader, Nutrition and Planetary Health at The Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (MRCG), was honoured with an award by the Federation of African Nutrition Societies (FANUS) at the 5th FANUS conference held in Dakar, Senegal from the 19th to 24th November 2023. Prof Prentice was recognised for his immense contribution to the cause of nutrition in Africa and commended for his diligent services representing Africa at the International Union of Nutritional Sciences Council (IUNS).
Originally from East Africa, as a teenager Andrew was keen to have a vocational career. He was advised to study medicine but chose to pursue a Biochemistry Degree from the University of Leeds and later a PhD in Nutrition from Darwin College Cambridge, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, both in England. During school holidays he worked at the MRC Child Nutrition Unit (and the Mwanimugimu Clinic) in Uganda led by Professor Roger Whitehead who subsequently started the nutrition research in Keneba in The Gambia after Idi Amin’s reign made it necessary for MRC to close the Uganda unit. Andrew’s first ever job for MRC was as an animal trapper in 1971, catching baboons for the breeding colony used for medical research in Uganda. Many adventures ensued including explaining at more than one of Idi Amin’s roadblocks why he had a Land Rover full of very irate and smelly baboons.
His career path led him from Cambridge to MRCG in 1977 where he joined as a post-doc conducting research at the rural Field Station in Keneba until 1983. After completing his post-doctoral research, he returned to Cambridge to lead the Energy Metabolism and Obesity Group at the MRC Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre. Andrew joined the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in 1999 as a Professor of International Nutrition and went on to establish the MRC International Nutrition Group. His research however remained connected to and based in Keneba in The Gambia. In 2015 he became the Theme Leader for Nutrition & Planetary Health at MRCG.
His research covers a diverse range of nutrition-related diseases with a focus on generating insights and interventions specific to Africa. Within this broad portfolio, his primary interest lies in understanding the interplay between iron, infection, and immunity. Andrew also explores the impact of a mother's pre-conceptional diet and nutritional status on the emerging fetal methylome, investigating downstream epigenetic influences on later-life diseases.
In addition to his research and roles at MRCG and LSHTM, Andrew has held international positions such as being a Council Member of both the IUNS and FANUS. He recently completed his term on the Professional Advisory Committee of HarvestPlus and serves as a Board Member of the Nestlé Nutrition Institute. Recognized for his contributions, he is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and an International Member of the US National Academy of Science. Encouraging more participation in FANUS has been a rewarding role Andrew has played among others. The Gambia and Senegal have long been active participants in IUNS and FANUS but many other countries either have no local academic society or require a lot of support to be organized.
In response to his award and recognition Andrew stated “It has been an absolute honour to have been elected to serve on the IUNS and FANUS Councils for some years. Now it’s time to step aside for younger colleagues, and I wish them all success.”
Looking to the future, Andrew has hope for the next generation of nutritionists “As I approach the end of my career my greatest hope is to leave behind a cadre of great nutritionists to lead the future. I’m very proud to see many of my former PhD students playing leading roles in African and global institutions. I wish them all success.”
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