Dr Jobe is a promising Clinician-Scientist involved in numerous on-going and planned studies (MEDiUM, RiboBP and PRIMORDIAL in submission)

Dr Jobe’s research interests are in the epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular disease, especially in developing countries. He is seeking to understand the link between metabolic problems like obesity and insulin resistance, and the development of cardiovascular diseases. His current project, a randomised placebo-controlled trial, is a recall-by-genotype study which seeks to investigate the effect of riboflavin supplementation on blood pressure and possible effect modification by MTHFR C677T genotype.

Dr Jobe joined the MRCG as a Wellcome Trust Masters Fellow in Public Health and Tropical Medicine in September 2014 under the supervision of Professor Andrew Prentice to undertake an 18-month research project to investigate which of several mechanisms represents the most likely route(s) by which metabolic endotoxaemia leads to insulin resistance and diabetes.

He was one of the earliest cohort of doctors to emerge from the University of The Gambia (UTG) medical school. Subsequently, he went on to obtain a Diplôme d’Études Spécialisées (DES) de Cardiologie (Postgraduate Specialist Diploma in Cardiology) at Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal. He has also obtained an MSc in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Dr Jobe is currently coordinating the non-communicable diseases (NCD) task force of the West African Global Health Alliance (WAGHA). He is bringing together a large team of professionals working in diverse areas and hoping to improve prevention and care in the developing world through high quality basic and translational research.

He has several peer-reviewed publications and has presented his research findings at major international conferences.


Dr Mohammed is committed to contributing more towards the bioinformatics work in The Unit

Dr Nuredin Mohammed joined MRCG as a Biostatistician in August 2016. Before joining The Unit, he worked as a research fellow for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) design services at the University of Birmingham where he completed his PhD training.

His thesis looked into the potential acute health effects of air pollution in time series studies in relation to daily changes and short-term exposure patterns. After leaving the University, he was offered an Honorary Research Fellowship (HRFs) and collaborates with scientists with diverse interests including occupational and environmental epidemiology and analysing large datasets such as the UK Biobank data. He has also supervised postgraduate students.

Nuredin is not new to The Unit. He spent his Tropical Epidemiology Group (TEG) / London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) fellowship at MRCG in 2010 after completing an MSc in Medical Statistics at the LSHTM. Previously he qualified in statistics from Addis Ababa University and worked for the Central Statistics Office in Ethiopia.

His Biostatistician role at The Unit involves helping scientists in the design, analysis and preparation of scientific reports for clinical, epidemiological and laboratory-based studies. In addition, he contributes to the development of research proposals/ protocols by providing statistical expertise and leads statistics training for staff and postgraduate students based in The Unit.

Dr Mohammed is involved in various studies including clinical trials and cohort studies such as the Iron Hydroxide Adipate Tartrate (IHAT) trial, Influenza Vaccine Immunogenicity and Associations With the Nasopharyngeal Microbiome Among Children in the Gambia (NASIMMUNE) trial and the Pneumococcal Surveillance Project (PSP).

Providing statistics training for staff and students was one of the priorities when Nuredin joined the statistics department. Together with Dr David Jeffries and other colleagues, he has organised and run seven training sessions. Each session was a day and half long and required considerable preparation including writing the necessary course materials and setting up the statistics software. The course reviewed basic concepts and covered common analytical methods in statistics with practical demonstrations using Genestat and Minitab packages.

The training sessions were run in all three main MRCG stations including Fajara, Basse and Keneba. The course received excellent reviews from more than 55 participants who attended so far and additional topics will be covered in the future. Sitting in the higher degrees committee, Nuredin also provides guidance to PhD students on the relevant statistics training they may need as part their studentship.

Nuredin is interested in the application of statistical / mathematical methods in medical research and committed to spend some of his time in training staff and students. He also enjoys programming and plans to contribute more towards the bioinformatics work of The Unit.

Commenting on Dr Mohammed, Dr David Jeffries, Statistics Manager said, “Nuredin brings important research skills based on longitudinal data to the unit. Additionally being a relatively recent post-doc he is in a good position to take a leadership role in the training of master’s and PhD students and sit on the higher degrees committee.”

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Lamin Sillah is contributing to the building of a strong Genomics Lab at MRCG.

Lamin Sillah is a Scientific Officer working in the Genomics Laboratory with a strong interest in next-generation sequencing techniques and their application in infectious diseases research. He is a product of the Unit’s commitment to training young Africans to become scientists. His dual skills in molecular techniques and basic bioinformatics are precisely suited to the Genomics platform.

Lamin was recruited to MRCG in 2001 as a high school graduate. In 2005, he did a certificate course in Biomedical Sciences organised in-house by the MRCG, then in 2007, proceeded to his diploma in biomedical sciences, by distance learning, with the University of Westminster.

Later he was successful in obtaining a 3 year BSc scholarship funded by the MRC Foundation (MRF), to study Biomedical Sciences at the University of Manchester. He has recently completed an MSc in Medical Microbiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and has now been appointed Scientific Officer at the Genomics Lab.

Lamin’s MSc was a practically-oriented course, which aimed to impart skills in clinical diagnostics and in recent molecular developments in the diagnosis of bacteria and viruses. Lamin’s core modules in bacteriology and virology included advanced training in molecular biology and recombinant techniques, molecular biology research progress and applications. The course aligns with both the present and future research interests of the MRCG as it teaches the understanding and diagnosis of pathogens involved in infectious diseases with a research-oriented approach. It also incorporates significant practical lab work and the acquisition of bioinformatics skills applicable to the rapidly increasing molecular approach to biomedical research.

According to Lamin, “No one achieves anything worthwhile without the significant contribution from others.” He added that he is grateful to his family for their unfailing love and to the MRCG for the opportunities they have and are providing to many aspiring African scientists in The Unit.

Lamin hopes to contribute to the building of a strong and efficient Genomics Laboratory and looks forward to undertaking a PhD which will lay a strong foundation in his future research career.


In 2014, Dr Bashorun was awarded a prestigious MRCG-funded MSc in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

Dr Adedapo Olufemi Bashorun is a Clinical Trial Coordinator working in the Vaccines and Immunity Theme, at MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG) and has a strong interest in preventive medicine. His professional background is in general medical practice and he has more than four years research experience in clinical vaccine trials. Since joining MRCG in 2011, Dr Bashorun has worked and contributed immensely to the success of multiple projects at The Unit.

Dr Bashorun first came to MRCG as a medical student on an internship from Lagos State University College of Medicine in 2006. He graduated as a medical doctor in 2007 and returned to MRCG in November 2011 as a research clinician and team leader in the nationwide Gambian survey of tuberculosis prevalence (GAMSTEP). While in The Unit, Dr Bashorun worked briefly in the Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health (PERCH) observational study in Basse before entering the field of clinical vaccine trials. He first worked at Faji Kunda on the Bill & Melinda Gates funded Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV) trial before moving on to the phase 1/2 10-valent pneumococcal-conjugate-vaccine (PCV10) trial. Recently Dr Bashorun served as a co-investigator and clinical trial coordinator on the WHO funded fractional IPV (fIPV) campaign study.

According to Dr Bashorun, the fIPV trial was a short, intensive, and very challenging study conducted during the period of the political impasse in The Gambia. During the study 3,189 under-5 year old children were recruited over three to four months in five main sites (Somita, Sibanor, Bwiam, Gunjur and Sanyang). The team subsequently vaccinated 2,720 of these children over 3 days across these sites. “This so far, has surpassed all the trials that I have been a part of, in terms of its complexity and uniqueness,” he added. Given the key importance of the results generated to the global polio eradication initiative, within only a few weeks of completing the trial Dr Bashorun presented the provisional results to the WHO polio research committee at a meeting in Geneva.

When asked to comment, Ed Clarke, Head of Infant Immunology said, “Dapo has without doubt played a key role in the success of all the vaccine trials on which we have worked over the last 4 years. His exceptional ability to coordinate the activities of a very large field team were exemplified during the recent fIPV trial which involved a team of well over 100 people, working to an extremely intensive schedule. While firm when necessary, he is also both extremely well liked and respected by everyone who works with him. All these skills will certainly be needed during the phase 3 PNEUMOSIL vaccine trial on which he is the clinical trial coordinator. I am very confident that his passion, organisational and team management skills, combined with the research training he has gained during his MSc will ensure that he has a bright academic future ahead.”


Dr Joseph Okebe is a Clinical Epidemiologist with a strong interest in infectious diseases in childhood and a professional background in paediatrics. He recently completed his PhD from the University of Antwerp, Belgium and his thesis focused on the impact of interventions to reduce residual malaria transmission in The Gambia in the context of malaria elimination.

Dr Okebe joined the Malaria Programme of the MRC Unit The Gambia as a Research Clinician in 2005 and has grown to become a central member of the group. As a member of the Disease Control and Elimination Theme, Joseph has been involved in over eight projects, in a leading role across the country and actively contributes to scientific and grant writing.

During his PhD, Joseph Okebe gained important skills and in-depth knowledge of clinical research that are key elements for malaria elimination. Part of his research work included a randomized control trial evaluating the efficacy of Primaquine; recommended for use in low-transmission settings to reduce transmission of malaria. His supervisors were Professors Umberto D’Alessandro and Jean-Pierre Van Geertruyden.

Presently, he coordinates a cluster-randomized trial on a community-based approach to reactive treatment of asymptomatic malaria contacts to reduce parasite carriage.

He is involved with the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group as an author and editor; producing systematic reviews that are essential for policies on health.

Dr Joseph Okebe has several peer-reviewed publications and has presented his research findings at major international conferences.

When asked about the principles of being a strong researcher, Joseph said, “I believe that a good understanding of research principles is important to asking the right questions and the approach needed to answer them. The MRCG is the place for this”.


Mr Jacob Otu Higher Scientific Officer on the WANETAM project Mr Jacob Otu was the Higher Scientific Officer on the West African Node of Excellence for Tuberculosis (TB), AIDS and Malaria (WANETAM) project. Jacob’s research interests are in molecular characterisation of multi-drug resistant, TB diagnostics and clinical trials. Jacob is a joint first author of; The emerging threat of pre-extensively-drug-resistant tuberculosis in West Africa: preparing for large scale tuberculosis research and drug resistance surveillance. A WANETAM paper which informs public health strategists to urgently implement drug-resistance prevalence surveillance and control interventions in West Africa.

Jacob has over 35 years of experience managing clinical mycobacteriology laboratories and in the diagnosis of tuberculosis including multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) in low-income countries. He is currently pursuing an MSc in Medical Microbiology and a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) on the research topic prevalence of multidrug-resistant TB between new and previously treated TB patients from West Africa.

Having previously been trained in Japan, South Africa and the UK, Jacob was instrumental in leading the MRCG TB diagnosis laboratory efforts to Good Clinical Laboratory Practice (GCLP) ISO-accreditation and key to the production of high-quality data in the TB diagnosis laboratory for patient care, TB surveys and TB clinical trial. He has authored and co-authored several papers and has made several presentations at major international conferences.

His vast experience was cherished during the in-house and off-site training for the WANETAM researchers. To achieve common quality standards within the WANETAM study sites, Jacob trained over 60 West African researchers from eight countries in various laboratory techniques. This enabled these researchers to successfully recruit and collect TB isolates from patients across the West Africa region for drug-resistance testing at the MRCG category three TB laboratory.

Jacob joined MRC Unit The Gambia in 2000, he retires from MRCG in March 2017, having worked for MRCG for 17 years. Prof Martin Antonio, Unit Molecular Biologist and Principal, Investigator, Vaccines and Immunity Theme said ‘‘The Unit thanks Jacob for his dedication and continuous service to MRCG and wish him well in future endeavours.”


Dr Abdullahi Ahmad is a Research Clinician and currently, a PhD student working within the Disease Control and Elimination Theme on ICEMR (International Centres of Excellence for Malaria Research) a project that conducts malaria surveillance to determine time trends in malaria epidemiology in relation to the implementation of control interventions.

Dr Abdullahi Ahmad, Research Clinician, Disease Control and Elimination ThemeDuring the MRCG Festival, Dr Ahmad will demonstrate how malaria transmission intensity could be very uneven over a small geographical area (i.e how communities within the same ecologic and climatic setting and located over an area as small as 30sq km could have markedly different levels of malaria transmission intensity). The communities with higher malaria levels are termed malaria “hot spots” and are considered very challenging for the National goal of malaria elimination in the coming years. His research is important because it can be used to identify and target communities with higher intensity of transmission that needs specific interventions.

The study has found that environmental factors such as the presence of mosquito breeding sites and poor housing conditions were the likely risk factors for high malaria burden in the communities; showing the importance environmental factors (i.e. improved housing and avoidance of stagnant water) when trying to achieve malaria control.

Abdullahi’s previous experience in the clinical development of the RTS,S malaria vaccine, which is world’s first ever malaria vaccine approved for use in human population, during a World Health Organisation Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (WHO/TDR) career development fellowship with GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals had a positive impact on how he effectively lead the epidemiology aspect of this five-year project. The critical role Dr Ahmad plays within the project facilitates the analysis and interpretation of the project’s data.

When asked to comment about his expectations for the event, Abdullahi said “I am hopeful that the second MRCG Festival will educate the target audience, stimulate more interest about MRCG’s research activities and bring about stronger cooperation from our host communities”.

Abdullahi’s broad research interest is on infectious diseases of public health importance prevalent in the West African sub-region. His current focus is on understanding the dynamics of malaria transmission and the development of novel interventions for the control and elimination of malaria.

Dr Ahmad holds a medical degree from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria, a diploma in tropical medicine and public health from Charite Institute of Tropical Medicine, Berlin, Germany and an MSc in tropical medicine and disease control from Charite-Universitatsmedizin Berlin, Germany. He is currently a PhD student focusing on asymptomatic malaria infections and gametocyte carriage. Beyond research, Abdullahi is passionate about travelling and experiencing new cultures.


Dr Owolabi’s professional background is in paediatrics and child health and in this regard he has led several major projects since joining MRCG in 2008. In particular, he was a Sub-Investigator/Research Clinician on the MVA85A (Oxford University) tuberculosis vaccine trial in infants. He was also the Principal Research clinician on another novel TB vaccine, M72/AS01E (GSK), also conducted in infants.

These two clinical trials were the first to administer these novel vaccines in infants and have since led to Phase II trials in South Africa with varying degrees of success. His contribution alongside Dr Martin Ota towards setting up the MRCG Fajikunda site for clinical trials was invaluable in late 2009. Dr Owolabi’s contribution to the TBCC has been important, not only in regards to patient diagnoses but for initiation of new projects, overseeing the entire field team and mentoring of all within his fold. He works tirelessly towards the goal of reducing the TB burden in The Gambia.

Married with children, Olumuyiwa still finds time to undertake a Master’s Programme in Public Health at the London school of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). During his research career, Dr Owolabi has authored and co-authored several papers. Among the scientific outputs from his research with high citation includes Elevated serum 25-hydroxy (OH) vitamin D levels are associated with risk of TB progression in Gambian adults. He has had four first-author publications and several presentations at major international conferences.

In his own words, “my goal is to significantly enhance the level of understanding of TB disease amongst our TBCC participants, feeding into improving self-referral of incident TB cases from the household and an improved follow-up rate of cases. We hope that this will eventually result in a better understanding of TB disease in the wider community in terms of TB control and zero TB death.” TB remains a stigmatised disease in many low-income settings, including Gambia, hence the need for a robust understanding of the disease that addresses stigma. This is a major issue since stigma often prevents people from seeking health care until the disease has far progressed.


Since November 2014, Yaya Giana has been initiating a lot of cost-saving logistics strategies for MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG). Following his appointment as a Logistic Manager in 2016, Yaya has provided excellent containerisation schedules coupled with the best selection of affordable transportation modes for The Unit. These initiatives have reduced the amount of cargo that was coming in by air, thereby increasing the speed and frequency of deliveries by sea.

Yaya first joined MRCG in September 2012 as an Intern within the Purchasing Department. He was then appointed as a Procurement Specialist in August 2013 and was later transferred to the Logistics Department as a Logistics Officer. From there, Yaya’s hard work and determination to developing the logistics services lead to a natural progression to Logistics Manager which saw the transformation of the services offered by the Logistics Department.

Yaya is a qualified Accountant and holds a BSc in accounting from University of The Gambia as well as being a member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), UK. From early on Yaya realised the importance of his own professional development as a means to creating a permanent capacity at MRCG. Over the years, Yaya embarked on several professional development courses which include, the Carriage of Diagnostic & Infectious Substance by Air. Yaya plays a key role within the Logistics Department. Under his management, the team was able to reduce the overall total freight costs, equivalent to 3%.

According to Apollo Twijukye, Head of Transport, “Yaya’s performance is commended within the Logistics Department. With great enthusiasm, Yaya is now expected to consolidate this achievement by liaising with projects, in terms of planning to bring at least 90% of non-perishable items by sea in the next financial year.”


Dr Julia Mwesigwa is a Clinical Scientist and PhD student in epidemiology with a strong interest in translational epidemiology and focused on better understanding of the transmission dynamics of malaria in Africa. Her professional background is in clinical medicine and she completed an MSc in Clinical Epidemiology at Makerere University. She also has over ten year’s research experience in Malaria and HIV research in The Gambia and Uganda.

In October 2016, Julia was awarded the prestigious MRCG-funded PhD Training Fellowship. Her PhD is at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, supervised by Prof Umberto D’Alessandro and Prof Jean-Pierre Van geertruyden. One of the cardinal goals of her PhD research is to define the “spatial and temporal spread of malaria in a setting of high coverage of malaria control interventions” which involves epidemiology, parasitology and entomological aspects.

During her PhD, Dr Julia Mwesigwa will gain important skills and in-depth knowledge on clinical research that are key elements for an early career scientist to transition towards an independent scientist. She is passionate about research and under the guidance of her mentors, both within the MRC Unit The Gambia and outside The Unit, she has been able to channel her motivation to learn more and excel at what she does. She hopes that her research will generate results able to positively influence policies on malaria control and management in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Julia Mwesigwa has several peer-reviewed publications of which she is a lead author on four and has presented her research findings at major international conferences.

When asked to comment on Julia’s research output, Prof Umberto D’Alessandro Unit Director and PhD Supervisor said, “Julia has gained a lot of field experience over the last few years. She now needs to develop her skills in data analysis and their interpretation on a broader context. Her PhD offers the ideal opportunity to develop such skills.”


Mamina Bojang is the Deputy Matron at MRC Unit The Gambia. He has been a staple at the Clinical Services Department (CSD) and the embodiment of a truly dedicated nurse. He began his nursing career at Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) in 1990 as a State Enrolled Nurse and Midwife. He joined MRCG in 1997 in the capacity of a State Enrolled Nurse and Midwife.

He held the post of a Healthcare Support Worker (Orthopaedics) at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol in the years 2003 – 2008. In 2009, he continued his service at MRCG as a Staff Nurse (Clinical & Research Nurse) with management responsibilities. In 2012, he held the post of a Tumour Registration Officer for the Gambia Hepatitis Intervention Study (GHIS) and proceeded to the post of Senior Nurse in 2013 and in 2014, he successfully attained the post of Deputy Matron.

Mamina is accessible, flexible and open to change and this quality was demonstrated in the support and guidance provided to the new management of the CSD and also in his management of the team through this transition period. He is a good communicator and is highly responsible. He holds several qualifications: Diploma in Tropical Nursing, Certificate in State Enrolled Nurse (SEN), Paediatric Special Care, Midwife and Endoscopy Procedures to name a few. In addition to this list are training received in Ebola in context, Caring for Infants & Children with Acute Malnutrition and Introduction to Good Clinical Practice. He is an exemplary for self-initiated career development and is presently undergoing his BSc in Nursing at The Gambia School of Nursing.

When asked to comment on Mamina’s hard work and commitment, Dr Karen Forrest, Head Clinical Services said, “Mamina is a key member of the clinic team. He brings a wealth of experience in nursing and clinical research which he loves to share with his colleagues. His commitment to the clinic is outstanding. His knowledge of the clinic and its staff has been invaluable to me as I have taken on leadership of the team. He is easy to work with and does all he can to improve the quality of service that we provide.”


Dr Helen Nabwera has a passion for evaluating and implementing innovative strategies for improving the health outcomes of women and children in sub-Saharan Africa. She spent 3½ years in Keneba as an MRCG Career Development Fellow, studying for her PhD as well as being Head of Clinical Services.

For her PhD with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, that she is due to submit imminently, she sought to understand the secular trends of growth faltering and explore the psychosocial factors that contribute to persistence despite intensive health interventions. She also sought to evaluate the physiological predictors of nutritional recovery in rural Gambian malnourished children. She is supervised by Professor Andrew Prentice.

During her time in Keneba, she helped to foster a clinical environment where health care professionals delivered consistent care based on the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) or national guidelines and valued their continuing professional development. She also helped to develop a holistic model of care for children and their carers admitted to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit, which the National Nutrition Agency are keen to use in other centres that care for children with severe acute malnutrition.

Helen recently left The Gambia to complete her paediatric training in the UK and is now working as a Locum Consultant Paediatrician at the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London. She will soon take up a post as Senior Clinical Research Associate at the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. She will be working on evaluating and developing interventions for reducing maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality, and will be advised by Professor Nynke van den Broek and Professor Matthews Mathai. She hopes to maintain close links with MRCG.

Helen has previously worked as a Wellcome Trust Visiting Fellow at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Wellcome Trust research programme, where under the supervision of Professor Jay Berkley, she evaluated strategies for improving the health and nutritional outcomes of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in exposed and infected children.

Helen’s husband, Mr Serge Soubeiga who works in the humanitarian field, has been very supportive of her throughout her career. Their two young boys Tegwende and Wendpanga who spent their early years in Keneba, thoroughly enjoyed their time there.


Malaria Research Capacity Development in West and Central Africa (MARCAD) recently awarded Dr Opondo with a Post-doctoral Fellowship to conduct his research on the ‘Impact of Insecticide Resistance on Malaria Vector Longevity and Transmission Potential in the Wild’. Dr Opondo’s research focuses on measuring the transmission potential of resistant malaria vectors in the wild and later use the empirical data to update malaria transmission models specific to The Gambia. The award Dr Opondo received will help to establish a critical mass of internationally-competitive scientists in West and Central Africa with a focus on malaria control and elimination.

Dr Opondo holds a PhD in Tropical Medicine majoring in entomology/epidemiology from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), UK which sought to understand how mosquito behaviour and insecticide resistance affect malaria transmission patterns in The Gambia. Kevin previously spent two years at Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) in Tanzania as part of his MSc training, investigating how mosquito behaviour affects the design and development of mosquito sampling tools.

Dr Opondo is interested in the application of Geographic Information System (GIS) tools to MRCguide malaria control strategies and in simplified communication of science to policy makers, to enable evidence-based decision making. He will be advised by Professor Umberto D’Alessandro (MRCG), Professor Martin Donnelly and Dr David Weetman both from (LSTM) and Dr Jo Lines (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine).


Since April 2016, MRC Unit The Gambia’s Librarian Isatou Manneh has been providing Research Information Services to The Unit. Following her appointment, one of Isatou’s first activites was the coordination of the complete renewal of the library which saw its transformation into a state-of-the-art Research Information Centre.

Isatou first joined MRCG in 2005 as a Data Entry Clerk on attachment within the malaria, viral and tuberculosis project having previously worked as a team leader on the National Polio Immunisation Campaign at Sukuta Health Centre. In 2007, she re-joined The Unit as a Data Entry Clerk and in 2009 progressed to Research Records Assistant. From there, Isatou’s hard work and determination to develop the service lead to a natural progression to Research Records and Library Assistant which cumulated in her appointment as Trainee Librarian.

From early on Isatou realised the importance of her own professional development as a means to create permanent capacity at The Unit and over the years embarked on  several professional development courses. These included a course on information technology at SOS Hermann Gmeiner, Quantum Net Institute of Technology and online computer maintenance as well as distance learning via the Open University Australia, Open2Study and Future Learn.

Isatou’s most recent project was structuring the library’s physical and electronic collections for which she closely collaborated with The Unit’s Data Management and Archives Department. This included the development of a customized online Library Management System. With Isatou’s input, MRCG’s team of database developers created a system that catalogues and categorises library resources including books, journals, thesis and Unit publications.

All materials are now barcoded allowing efficient check-out and check-in of materials and management of information resources. This streamlined process is testament to the importance of interdepartmental communication and cooperation resulting in efficiency gains, costs savings and most importantly a better service for our research community.

When asked what she likes most about her job, Isatou responded, “I take great pride in giving direct support to my colleagues and knowing that the information I provide contributes to research that saves life”.

Isatou now oversees a widely used and highly functional Research Information Centre frequented by a large number of students, researchers and other Unit staff on a daily basis. By developing and tirelessly ensuring compliance with the library’s process and code of conduct, she ensures that the Research Information Centre remains central in MRCG’s drive to develop the local knowledge base and talent.

According to Jonas Lexow, Research Governance & Support Services Manager, “Seeing the library being transformed into this exceptional space for research and study is truly impressive. Thanks to Isatou and the team at Data Management and Archives, we now have an electronic system that complements and completes this state-of-the-art Research Information Centre which will benefit the current and future generations of Gambian and international researchers alike”.


Mustapha Jobe joined MRCG as the Head of Human Resources (HR), in April 2016. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and holds a Masters Degree in Human Resources Management and a Business Studies Degree. He is also a certified workplace mediator and career coach. His interest in career coaching stemmed from his many years of involvement in recruitment and selection in the UK during which he noticed how well-educated Africans struggled to break into the professional employment market.

Prior to joining The Unit, Mustapha worked briefly for the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC). He has a keen interest in talent management and the development of processes and strategies that enhance staff development and improve standards across the workplace.Mustapha would like to see more young professionals choosing HR as a career pathway, as it offers a broad range of opportunities.

He is also a certified workplace mediator and career coach. His interest in career coaching stemmed from his many years of involvement in recruitment and selection in the UK during which he noticed how well-educated Africans struggled to break into the professional employment market. Mustapha has completed a number of private HR projects for various organisations both locally and internationally.

With his vast HR experience built up over many years whilst living and working in the UK, Mustapha describes MRCG as a great place to work. Mustapha is currently working on a HR action plan to improve the way in which The Unit attracts, recruits, retains, supports, engages, rewards and recognises staff. He is keen on elevating The Unit’s status globally as an employer of choice.

Mustapha is an advocate of corporate social responsibility. Over many years, he has encouraged organisations to allow staff paid time off from work to engage in voluntary activities. He also advocates for organisations to support internships, thus giving young people the work experience they need to prepare them for the ever-changing demands of the workforce.


Martin Antonio is Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Global Health, and Co-Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) Centre for Epidemic Preparedness and Response, where he represents LSHTM at WHO’s coordinated ‘Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network’. He is affiliated with the Department of Infection Biology, Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, LSHTM. Martin is based at the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM (MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM) where he is an MRC Investigator. He was the founding Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for New Vaccines Surveillance and now directs the WHO Regional Reference Laboratory for invasive bacterial diseases. Martin is a member of the Senior Strategic Leadership Board and Chairs the Unit’s West Africa Strategy and partnership. Additionally, he serves on numerous LSHTM and International Scientific Advisory Boards as Chair or member in Africa, Europe, UK and the USA. Martin obtained his BSc (Biochemistry) from the University of Glasgow (1991), MSc (Applied Molecular Biology of Infectious Diseases) from LSHTM in 1993. He then moved across the road to Bart’s Medical College, the University of London (now Queen Mary and Westfield College) where he obtained his PhD (Molecular Microbiology) in 1997. Martin is a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences and Royal College of Pathologist (UK), Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Honorary Professor at Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick. Martin’s research is focused on the leverage of innovative molecular technologies in the diagnosis of tropical diseases (mainly tuberculosis, meningitis, pneumonia, diarrhoeal diseases), investigation of meningitis outbreaks and transmission, antimicrobial resistance, and clinical trials. Furthermore, his research applies molecular tools to understand the impact of air pollution on the nasopharyngeal microbiome and epidemic meningitis in Africa. He has published >210 research peer-reviewed articles with a research publication. H-index of 65, i10-index of 189 and 19158 citations to my work.

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Mamadou Jallow joined the MRC Unit The Gambia fresh from high school in 2011 as a Trainee Laboratory Technician in the Clinical Laboratories. A year later, he was promoted to the position of Laboratory Technician and awarded a scholarship to undertake the Foundation degree in Biomedical Science with St. George’s University in London by distance learning. Through hard work and support from the Clinical Laboratories team, he graduated with distinction in June 2015. Being one of the best graduating students for the year, he was sponsored for full-time BSc degree in Biomedical Science at Kingston University, London.

Mamadou demonstrated that hard work pays off as he graduated with first class honours in June 2016. He has since resumed as a Trainee Scientific Officer in the Clinical Laboratories adding to the excellent pool of skilled personnel in Laboratory Services.

The knowledge acquired through his degree has been particularly helpful in strengthening the clinical microbiology platform, in the areas of bacteriology and parasitology.The knowledge acquired through his degree has been particularly helpful in strengthening the clinical microbiology platform, in the areas of bacteriology and parasitology.Mamadou’s training is an added boost to the clinical labs quality management system and will contribute to sustaining the ISO15189 accreditation status of the laboratory.

Mamadou’s career progression is another example of the success story of MRCG’s strategy of identifying, training and preparing indigenous talent for key roles that support our track record for excellent research. The transition from Laboratory Technician to Trainee Scientific Officer, with a first class honours degree in Biomedical Science, happened within a 5-year period of May 2011 to August 2016.

According to Mamadou “it is a lesson that it is possible to manage the lifelong process of learning, working and leisure”.


Associate Professor Dr Carla Cerami from the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine and the Institute of Global Health University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, joined our Nutrition Theme as a Senior Investigator Scientist in June 2016.

Dr Cerami’s research interests are in global health, infectious diseases, metabolism and nutrition.

In 1987, Dr Cerami acquired her Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Columbia College in New York City. She earned both her Medical Degree and PhD from the New York University School of Medicine in 1993. Dr Cerami’s interest in malaria and commitment to Global Health began during her dissertation at the New York University with Dr Victor Nussenzweig. Having completed her surgical internship at North Shore University Hospital, Dr Cerami went on to become one of the founders of The Kenneth S. Warren Institute, a non-profit research Institute dedicated to translational global health research.

In 2009 she joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Gillings School of Public Health in Chapel Hill, USA where she carried out research on the impact of host iron status on growth and viability of erythrocytic states of Plasmodium falciparum, host determinants of susceptibility to cerebral and use of novel neuroprotective peptides to treat cerebral malaria. At MRCG, Dr Cerami is currently working on two research projects, investigating host iron and pathogen interactions.

Iron supplementation studies in Africa and Asia have reported increased rates of respiratory infections, severe diarrhea and febrile illnesses of unknown origin, but the mechanisms are unclear. Dr Cerami and her team are investigating the possible mechanisms by which host iron supplementation impacts bacterial pathogenesis. Dr Cerami and Professor Andrew Prentice have just been awarded Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding for the NeoInnate study examining the possible protective effect against septicemia of acute neonatal hypoferremia. The study will be conducted at Serrekunda Hospital.

Dr Cerami’ previous work has shown that the effects of iron deficiency and iron supplementation on parasite growth are due to changes in red blood cell physiology and the age structure of the red blood cell population. She is now continuing this work using red blood cells from pregnant women and children enrolled in iron supplementation trials in The Gambia. Both the malaria infection and iron supplementation project and bacteria and iron supplementation hold potential keys to the safe administration of iron in malaria endemic areas in a sustainable cost-effective manner.



In a ceremony held in Gaborone, Botswana, Dr Assan Jaye was one of 38 international Scientist honoured and recognised by the Academy of Sciences (AAS) as a Fellow in July 2016. The AAS is a pan-African organisation headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, which aims to drive sustainable development in Africa through science technology and innovation. With the approval of the Governing Council, in October 2015, Dr Jaye was elected as a Fellow for excelling in the field of medical research and outstanding contribution to the advancement of sciences in Africa.

Over the last 32 years to date, the AAS has recognised 330 AAS Fellows and Associate and Honorary Fellows who are proven science, technology and innovation leaders, policy advisors and thinkers most of whom live and work throughout the continent. The 38 scientists include five Associate Fellows and 33 Fellows from different countries in Africa and across the globe. Their research fields’ span include biosciences, physical sciences, medical sciences, mathematics, biosciences and humanities and social sciences.

About Dr Assan Jaye

Dr Assan Jaye graduated as a Veterinarian in 1988 from Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria. Following his PhD at Brunel University (1989-1993), Assan joined the MRC Unit The Gambia in 1993 as a Rockefeller early post-doc research trainee. In 1998, Assan was appointed as an International Senior Scientist and group leader for HIV Immunology in the then Viral Diseases Program, which he later led as interim head in 2008.

Assan received an International Leadership award in 2007 from Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation. He was the Coordinator of the MRCG Higher Degrees Program from 2004-2010, that creates opportunities for young researchers to pursue postgraduate research studies under the MRCG Research Career Development Support. Since January 2011, Assan has been seconded to the University of Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Dakar, Senegal, to head a West African Research Collaboration Network. Due to his passion for capacity development, in March 2016, Dr Assan Jaye was appointed as the Senior Manager, Research Training and Career Development.


Christine Bartram is a PhD student currently involved in data collection at Keneba for the psycho-social measures in the BRain Imaging in Global HealTh BRIGHT study. Christine’s research interest is on parents’ mental health, newborn behaviour and parent-child interaction.

Christine graduated with a BA in Politics, Psychology and Sociology from the University of Cambridge. During her studies, Christine trained and certified in the Newborn Behavioural Observation system, a support tool for parents with infants under three months. In 2013, she completed an MSc in Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Psychological Practice at the University of Edinburgh and was awarded a scholarship to begin her PhD in Health Sciences at the University of Warwick.

In early 2015 she certified in the Neonatal Behavioural Assessment Scale (NBAS), which can be used as a support tool as well as a research measure. Within the same year, Christine was invited to join the BRIGHT study at MRCG in Keneba to collect NBAS data for the team. The study seeks to investigate the feasibility of using an optical brain imaging technique, functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), to provide biomarkers of brain development in young Gambian infants.

During the pilot phase in July 2015, Christine demonstrated that the NBAS is culturally acceptable with only minor adjustments. She then worked with a dedicated team in Keneba to translate and adapt the five mental health questionnaires which will be implemented as an adjunct to the main BRIGHT study.

Along with another undergraduate student, she collected data for 60 of the families enrolled in a Cambridge Centre for Family Research study on the theory of mind and executive functioning in children with and without an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Christine has also previously conducted qualitative research with individuals living on the street in Cambridge and with women of child-bearing age receiving in-patient treatment for disorders in a clinic in Scotland.

Beyond research, she is passionate about supporting vulnerable families and has done so in a voluntary capacity in various roles, including offering NBO and NBAS sessions to new teenage parents, volunteering as a receptionist in a community counseling centre, and teaching a class on newborn care and communication for mothers in sheltered accommodation.

When asked to comment, Prof Andrew Prentice, Nutrition Theme leader said, “We frequently have to call upon specialist skills to assist with studies at MRCG. Christine is a great example of combining the skills we need with the field opportunity that she needs”.


Dr Jane Achan is the coordinator of the malaria group within the Disease Control and Elimination theme. Jane plays a pivotal leadership role in strengthening the quality of science delivery within the malaria group. Her wealth of experience having worked in the field of paediatrics since 1999, Jane is one of the most experienced Ugandan paediatricians specialised in infectious disease care and actively involved in research on malaria and HIV. For the past 2 years, Jane has significantly improved the coordination of a large multidisciplinary malaria team within the related activities across MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG).

Prior to joining MRCG in 2014, Dr Jane Achan was a Lecturer in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health of Makerere University College of Health Sciences in Kampala, Uganda and the President of the Uganda Pediatric Association. Dr Jane did her master’s degree in paediatrics and child health at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda in 2001. She then pursued an MSc, in Clinical trials, at the University of London, in 2008 and in 2009, Dr Achan was awarded an institutional scholarship from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium for her PhD studies.

Jane’s research interest is in Clinical Trials, Infectious Diseases and Pediatrics and has written several high impact publications about her research. Jane has a track record of delivering remarkable science and has received numerous awards of recognition for her work. As part of her role, Jane represents the Malaria group internally and externally, especially with the National Malaria Control Programme and as an inspirational leader, Jane gives support to more junior scientists to ensure outputs are well generated within the different malaria projects.

Jane has contributed to some high impact publications from the malaria team and also been involved in several grant applications that will contribute new areas of research under the theme. Beyond these coordinating activities, Jane is pursuing her career as an independent scientist and looking forward to having her own niche within the malaria field.

Professor Umberto D’alessandro, Director said “ I had the opportunity and pleasure of supervising Jane during her PhD, which was on the management of malaria patients, including those infected with HIV. When she accepted to move from Uganda to The Gambia, to become the coordinator of the malaria group, I was particularly pleased because I knew she was the right person for such position. Indeed, Jane has contributed substantially to our malaria research activities and I strongly believe she has the potential of becoming an independent and influential scientist in her field. We will definitely support her in this endeavour.”


Originally from Nigeria, trained paediatrician and clinical trial coordinator, Dr Idoko has worked at MRC Unit The Gambia since June 2010 (following a 1-year stint between July 2007 and July 2008). During this time Olubukola has been involved in a number of important vaccine trials, including the studies for MenAfriVac, a very important vaccine that protects against the epidemic strains that sweep the countries of the meningitis belt. The vaccine was recently introduced into The Gambia in a mass vaccination campaign, and it is hoped will also soon be part of our national immunisation program.

Dr Idoko holds a medical degree from the University of Jos in Nigeria and a Master of Science in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She also possesses post-graduate clinical qualifications in Paediatrics which she received at the Jos University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria and is a Fellow of the West African College of Physicians in Paediatrics.

More recently, Dr Idoko coordinated the multi-dose vaccine trial for the new preparation of the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) 13 Prevenar vaccine. This randomised control trial recruited 500 infants in Fajikunda and compared the immunogenicity between the standard preparation, which is a single dose per vial with the multi-vial preparation of PCV13. The vaccines were found to be equivalent, and the new preparation was licensed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in April 2016 as a consequence of the trial she led which will make the PCV vaccines more affordable for Africa.

Dr Idoko led the field team with great enthusiasm and is a highly respected leader. She is keen to pursue further academic training in Vaccinology and has just been awarded a 1-year Wellcome Trust Fellowship via Imperial College and a place on the PhD program at the University of Munich.

According to Prof Beate Kampman, Dr Idoko is a prime example of how the hard work, perseverance and the required multi-tasking of a professional African woman can lead to being an inspiration for others at the MRCG and beyond.


Badou Gaye, the Head of Information Technology (IT) is a Gambian who plays a pivotal leadership role in strengthening the quality of IT management systems and improve coordination of IT related activities across the MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG) and Medical Research Council UK. His professional background is in IT Systems Administration, Information Security and he completed his first degree at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. Currently, Badou is undertaking his dissertation in Msc. Information Systems. Badou is a Certified Microsoft System Engineer, Information Security Analyst and a Virtualization enthusiast which has given him a vast amount of experience in managing complex IT infrastructures.

Badou was employed as the Head of IT in 2013 and over the years, Badou has provided high quality IT/IS services (data and voice) in support of research and administrative functions at the MRCG. Working with the Director of Operations, Badou has successfully aligned the IT strategy of the MRCG towards providing excellent scientific research to establish more effective cross cover of specialized expertise and drive improvements in operational efficiency. In his capacity as the Head of IT, Badou has persistently defined cases for future IT requirements, built around business re-engineering addressing the technical and financial implications for change.

Badou has a track record of delivering remarkable Information Communication Technology (ICT) services, managing a unique and complex computing environment consisting of Windows, Linux, Macs to support world-class scientific research. This complex infrastructure includes a Wide-Area-Network spanning from MRCG sites of Keneba, Basse and Fajara. Badou effectively manages a large scale storage sub-system, with high-performance computing (HPC) for scientific applications like Bioinformatics, virtualisation technologies and other cutting-edge scientific equipment.

As MRCG operations is highly dependent on computers. Over the last few years, MRCG has seen the number of computers, local area network and storage capacity substantially increased. This expansion has increased the number of users and the range of softwares used by MRCG. While based at the main site in Fajara, the Computer Centre also supports computer facilities at the upcountry Field sites in Keneba and Basse.

Under his leadership, Badou’s department provides an effective, efficient and economic operational IT service to support the entire research infrastructure of MRC Unit The Gambia.


Sarah Dufie Sarpong is the Head of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) at MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG). She has over six years’ experience in Health and Safety Management and over eight years’ experience in Quality Assurance Management. Sarah provides strategic leadership for MRCG’s various Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) initiatives, and is responsible for ensuring The Unit’s compliance with all applicable local and Medical Research Council (MRC) UK HSE requirements.

Sarah is a graduate member of the Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, UK. She holds an MSc in Occupational Health and Safety Management from the University of Portsmouth, UK; NEBOSH Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety Management; a Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Safety, Health and Environmental Management from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration; and a Level 3 Certificate in Quality Assurance from the Chartered Quality Institute, UK. She has received extensive practical Health and Safety training from the MRC (UK) Safety, Security and Resilience Team and other MRC UK Units including the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (Cambridge University), MRC Harwell, and the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (UK).

Previously, Sarah worked for Norpalm Ghana Limited as a Quality Assurance Supervisor following her graduation from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana and National Service with the organisation. After a few years of high performance, during which time she developed a fully fledged and effective Quality Assurance section, she was promoted to the level of Assistant Manager and Head of Section respectively. Sarah was also given the additional responsibility of championing the company’s Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) issues, and was in charge of policy development and implementation across the entire organisation, with specific responsibility for liaising with all statutory and external regulatory bodies regarding SHE issues to ensure compliance and certification.

Initially employed as The Unit’s Health and Safety Manager, Sarah has made significant progress over the years in developing and implementing improvement strategies and has had particular success in raising the level of Health and Safety awareness amongst staff. Following on from this success, she was given the additional responsibility of integrating environmental management into The Unit’s Health and Safety management system.

Since joining The Unit in 2011, Sarah has effectively transformed the Health and Safety Department. This has been attributed to her energy, resilience, willingness to question the status quo and her focus on delivering results. Sarah’s proactive approach to introducing new Health and Safety initiatives is coupled with a commitment to empowering others, thus ensuring ownership of ideas and actions at the departmental level. Training of staff including managers/supervisors, conducting accident investigations and inspections, responding to urgent health and safety calls, ensuring compliance to HSE rules, organising HSE awareness programmes, developing and implementing new standard operating procedures are a few of her day-to-day responsibilities.

With the addition of environmental management to her role, Sarah’s new vision for the department is to achieve excellence through striving to prevent harm to employees, other associates and the environment. In line with this vision, she recently launched an energy saving campaign across The Unit, themed ‘make a small change’, encouraging staff to make small changes in their daily lives to help contribute to bigger improvements in the environment. This campaign is targeted at reducing The Unit’s energy costs by 10% over the next two years and most importantly, at reducing its carbon footprint. Over the next few years, her plan is to introduce other environmentally sustainable initiatives such as the installation of solar energy street lights, recycling some of The Unit’s solid and liquid waste.

Sarah’s proven leadership and organisational skills have been used in a number of Unit-wide context including, schools’ open day, a nationwide fire safety awareness programme, a Family Fun Day for staff, launching the ‘MRC and Me Wellbeing Programme’ and annual HSE awareness week celebrations. She is the chair of the Steering Committee of The Unit’s Wellbeing programme and is responsible for introducing initiatives that promote healthy lifestyle choices amongst staff.


Modupeh Betts is a Trainee Bioinformatician within the Nutrition Theme of MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG). Modupeh has been recently awarded an exciting fellowship with the Nutrition Theme as a Trainee Bioinformatician within the Epigenetic Mechanisms linking Pre-conceptional nutrition and Health Assessed in India and Sub-Saharan Africa (EMPHASIS) grant. EMPHASIS is focused on investigating whether the micronutrients received by mothers before conception has influenced the epigenome and/or health of their now 8-9 year old children. Changes in epigenetic signatures, such as DNA methylation, between intervention and control groups will be correlated with health outcomes.

Modupeh is currently involved in data collection at Keneba field station and will be undertaking a full-time MSc Bioinformatics in the UK in the fall, 2016. He will be line managed by EMPHASIS project PI, Dr Matt Silver, who is also a Bioinformatician and Statistical Geneticist. Modupeh has had a long term interest in bioinformatics and the fellowship presents a unique opportunity to develop his bioinformatics expertise and work with leading scientists in discovery research. Modupeh travelled to India in February 2016 to attend the first annual EMPHASIS meeting.

Modupeh joined MRCG as a Laboratory Technician in Dr Martin Antonio’s Molecular Microbiology Group in December 2006. Modupeh graduated with distinction in the MRCG sponsored 4-year Foundation Degree in Biomedical Science in July 2012. He subsequently earned a scholarship from MRCG to complete BSc Biomedical Science full-time at Kingston University, London where he graduated with first class honours in 2013. Modupeh successfully returned to Dr Antonio’s group as a Scientific Officer under the supervision of Dr Brenda Kwambana-Adams.

Modupeh’s career progression is one of the success stories of MRCG’s strategy of identifying, training and retaining indigenous talent to support the continuity of research. The numerous technical training opportunities and skills Modupeh acquired over the years within the molecular sciences group have had a significant impact on the recently concluded 3-year Global Enteric Multicentre study (GEMS) and the 2-year Vaccination and Paediatric Microbiome Project (VPM).

Modupeh received training in South Africa in 2010 which led to the publication of the first data on circulating pre-vaccination rotavirus genotypes in The Gambia in 2013. He attended the Wellcome Trust Advance Course on ‘Pathogen Genomics’ in 2014 in Malawi and also had six weeks training in January 2015 at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, UK. He has most recently been involved in a milestone achievement of preparing 16S metagenomics libraries for Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) in-house at the MRCG.


Dembo Kanteh the first Head of the Research Support Office (RSO) plays a pivotal leadership role in managing, identifying and developing strategies to optimize the grants administration process of MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG). Dembo currently serves in the Executive of the West Africa Research Management Association as Assistant Secretary General of West African Research and Innovation Management Association (WARIMA). Dembo’s key role at WARIMA is to increase MRCG’s visibility for research management through the publication of MRCG’s science research.

Dembo obtained his first Degree BA (Hons) Economics from Delhi University in India in 1996. He started work in MRCG in June 1999 as a Trainee Administrative Manager. MRC Unit The Gambia sponsored his management training through the Open University, where he obtained his MBA. Dembo held a steady stream of responsibilities in MRCG working as an Administrator in the Field Stations, in Research Programmes, as Grants Manager and more recently as Head of the Research Support Office.

As MRCG depends on competitive funding for all of its research, Dembo effectively oversees the preparation, timely submission of grant applications, contracting, and management of grants. He successfully monitors interventions and programs funded by grants to ensure compliance with grantor guidelines. With his exceptional track record for achieving grant targets, Dembo also provides support to our sister sites across Africa. Under his leadership, the RSO over the years has become a centre of reference for collaborative research sites in Africa for learning and training.

Dembo and his team successfully embedded the performance reporting system at MRCG, which includes the quarterly Grants and Publications Report used both for performance review and decision-making Unit-wide and at the Leadership level. The team also collects information on performance for MRCG which forms the basis of the MRCG Performance Report. Within the Operational Department, Dembo’s team provides a view of work demands of projects for relevant planning to ensure grants are implemented according to the operational and financial needs of the MRCG.

Based on his background Dembo says “I have a strong fervour for the development and training of others. I have mentored and developed several management trainees who have either completed or about to complete their MBA studies. Together with them, we run a management lab group within MRCG, looking at relevant problems and proposing solutions for management.”


Dr Ousman Secka is the Microbiology Laboratory Manager and Head of Tuberculosis (TB) diagnostics of MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG). In addition, Ousman functions as The Unit’s Microbiologist and Biological Safety Officer. Ousman continues to contribute to the success of the laboratories, by bringing his wealth of experience and institutional memory to the task of maintaining an efficient Laboratory Services Platform.

Having spent over 30 years in service, Ousman is a long-standing staff member of the MRCG, who has undertaken various training, sponsored by the MRCG. He joined the MRCG straight from high school as Trainee Laboratory Technician in 1983. His career progression is one of the success stories of MRCG’s strategy of identifying, training and retaining indigenous talent to occupy key roles that support the continuity of research. He obtained an MPhil degree in 1999 and a PhD in 2013 while contributing in several different roles to MRCG’s research agenda.

Ousman was the first to characterise Helicobacter pylori of clinical isolates from The Gambia in detail and more importantly, the first to characterise isolates taken from young children close to the time of their first colonisation. The combination of phylogenetic analyses, antibiotic susceptibility, clinical correlation and geographical association within a defined human population has been unique as it is the only study so far which includes The Gambia.

Ousman worked extensively on identifying the characteristics of both invasive and carriage isolates of Haemophilus influenzae type b from The Gambia. His work led to the first description of a hyperinvasive Haemophilus influenzae type b genotype in The Gambia, which was presented at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh at the 156th Society for General Microbiology (SGM) meeting in 2005. Ousman also developed and evaluated a rapid and simple biotyping method for Haemophilus influenzae which he called “MICROTEK” published in Br J Biomed Sci. 1998.

Prior to his current position, Ousman successfully led the Research Laboratory Administrative Platform and Biobank, in setting up systems to comply with Good Clinical Laboratory Practices (GCLP). Osman led the laboratory refurbishments of Thompson block in 2011 and Biosafety level 3 laboratory in 2013. He successfully led the TB Diagnostic Laboratory to achieve ISO 15189 accreditation and maintaining GCLP in 2015.

According to Dr Davis Nwakanma, Head of Laboratory Management, “Dr Ousman Secka’s dedication to duty is exemplary and the ability to bring tasks to completion within strict timelines and in a high standard makes him an outstanding member of the Laboratory Management Team.”