MRCG Unit Director and Theme Leader of Vaccines and Immunity Receive Awards at ICHAIR

The Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (MRCG) Unit Director Professor Umberto D’Alessandro and Theme Leader of Vaccines and Immunity Professor Ed Clarke took part in the International Conference on Health Advances, Innovation & Research (ICHAIR) which has been hosted annually by the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) since 2011. Prof D’Alessandro was honored with an award and served as a keynote speaker. Prof Clarke was also a guest speaker and was honored with an appreciation and recognition award.

Every year ICHAIR brings together postgraduate students, researchers, academic scientists, professionals, and government representatives. Through hosting the conference, NIMR provides a platform for participants to network, exchange, and share professional experiences and research findings in the fields of medical and public health as well as basic science research. This year the three-day conference covered topics ranging from North-South & South-South research collaboration and Malaria to HPV vaccination in Nigeria. Experts came together in round table discussions and listened to prominent keynote speakers.

Prof D’Alessandro served as a keynote speaker at the conference speaking on the topic of antimalarial drug resistance, more specifically the emergence of artemisinin resistance in Africa. He expressed the importance of attending the event, “We have recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the NIMR with the intention of working together both in research and training and capacity building. ICHAIR provided the opportunity to present the work we are doing on antimalarial drug resistance and to discuss opportunities for collaboration.”

Besides the keynote address, Prof D’Alessandro was one of the panelists for the session on North-South and South-South collaboration. Engaging and supporting the next generation of scientists was also a focus at the conference. Prof D’Alessandro stated “Together with Ed, we also organized a session on skill building for young scientists. For the latter, I was really impressed by the enthusiasm shown by the young scientists at NIMR as they asked many questions and stayed at the meeting until late in the evening.” 

Prof Clarke also spoke as a guest speaker focusing his discussion on vaccine research opportunities in the West African subregion for institutions such as NIMR and MRCG.  Amongst other things, he discussed the Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) which ambitiously aims for at least 60% of vaccines used in Africa to be manufactured on the continent by 2040.  The PAVM Framework for Action emphasizes the considerable expansion in personnel capacity that will be required to achieve this.  This includes across areas such as molecular biology, immunology, biotechnology, pharmaceutical engineering, and clinical development. Prof Clarke emphasized “This should be seen as an opportunity for aspiring biomedical scientists in the sub-region to impact capacity in the future as well as a call to action for those in training institutions to focus on these key areas.”       

In speaking on the opportunity to be a guest speaker Prof Clarke explained “It was a huge honour to speak at this important forum.  The interest and energy of those attending, particularly those at a more junior level, was inspiring. NIMR has considerably expanded its clinical trial experience and infrastructure recently and I hope this will provide many opportunities for meaningful south-south collaborations.”

MRCG is leading health research in West Africa to save lives and improve health across the world. Collaboration and partnership are the cornerstones of achieving this vision. Highlighting MRCG’s work Prof D’Alessandro stated “MRCG will continue to establish fruitful relationships with West African research institutions and universities. For research, this is important as we can identify with our partners relevant research questions and together develop multicentre studies whose results are broadly applicable. Besides research, these partnerships offer the opportunity to exchange staff and build our partners’ capacity. Such partnerships are based on mutual trust and this is built over time thanks to common research projects and training programs”.    

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