WACCBIP holds WACCBIP-Wellcome Trust DELTAS Africa Inception Meeting
The West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) has successfully hosted the inception meeting for the Developing Excellence in leadership, training and science (DELTAS) Africa programme which was held on November 12-13, 2015.
The DELTAS Africa programme is a new initiative by the Wellcome Trust.
The first day of the meeting commenced with a welcome address by Dr. Gordon Awandare, the Programme Director which was followed by a brief interactions with all participants. He commenced the meeting with a presentation on WACCBIP-Wellcome Trust DELTAS Africa proposal and how it was unique from the WACCBIP – ACE due to the introduction of human genetics, non-communicable diseases and molecular diagnosis. The program also introduces a postdoctoral training scheme with increased supervision, mentorship and evaluation of teaching and training. Prof. Kwadwo Koram, Director of Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and a co-applicant, gave an elaborate presentation on experiences and lessons learnt from NMIMR Postdoctoral Programme from which the WACCBIP – Wellcome Trust DELTAS could learn from.The key point he raised that need to be taken into consideration by WACCBIP- DELTAS include:
- The logistics of accommodation and settling down in Ghana by fellows, both local and international.
- Sending post docs to partner and non- partner institutions to undertake key research experiments necessary for their projects.
- IT issues
- Sustainability of the scheme can be achieved by long-term collaboration with partner institutions with the example of the TDR implementation research scheme.
- Apart from being trained by the scheme, what will help the postdocs to be leaders in their fields eg. Increased grant applications
- Integration of postdocs either in the center or institution where the center is based or exporting them to partner institution such that they maintain a strong affiliation with the center to broaden the scope of research training.
- Prof. Yeboah Manu also suggested that some basic reagents and consumables in bulk to stock up of research needs,. This prevents the long wait times during procurement especially since the fellows are time bound to deliver results.
The meeting continued with presentations from five partner institutions which were delivered by Prof. Ambroise Wonkam, Prof. Mahamadou Diakite, Prof. Solomon Ofori-Acquah, Dr. Sam Alsford and Mr. Dembo Kanteh representing University of Cape Town, South Africa; Malaria Research & Training Centre, Mali; University of Pittsburgh, USA; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK; and Medical Research Council Unit, The Gambia respectively.
The key points, which make each of these partners unique and important for the success of WACCBIP-DELTAS, are highlighted below:
- UPMC – has a strong tissue regeneration research network and the vascular medicine institute and human genetics program will be involved in student supervision. They are ready to host students and even have a website designed to include the WACCBIP-DELTAS scheme.
- UCT – has over 10 collaborations with other African institutions and research initiatives. The Institute of Infectious diseases and molecular medicine has a core facility for flow cytometry, histology and a genome platform. Their current enrollment has 50% as postgraduate students and their program s research based only. Prof. Wonkam however also raised the issue of political and racial challenges that every student visitor may be exposed to.
- MRC unit – Is a UK funded institution with a strong basic research and field work support. They has 3 DSS spread around the country to facilitate research activities and their vision is to research into and provide support on infectious diseases, maternal health, nutrition and non-communicable diseases.
- LSHTM – the collaboration will be between the Faculty of infectious and tropical disease research. Their core facility includes category 3 labs, imaging suite which include confocal microscopy as well as invivo imaging, a genome resource facility which does regular Sanger sequencing as well as illumine miseq. Cited an example of collaborative research with the IDEAS projects.
- MRTC – Majority of their funding comes from NIH and NIAD and the organization is under the university of Science, techniques and technology. Their research is mainly into malaria and vector research. Their core facilities include insectaria, BSL3 lab, IT-VSAT, three field vaccine trial facilities and a visio-conferencing facility for Bioinformatics training.
Prof. Laud Okine of the Department of Biochemistry Cell and Molecular Biology gave a presentation on the overview of research at the Department. After the morning session Dr. Ambroise Wonkam gave a presentation on the topic “Genetics Medicine in Africa: Problems, Promises and Prospects”.
Participants and graduate students of the Centre attended the seminar. Participants reconvened in the Science Conference Room, Biochemistry Building to continue with the meeting as scheduled.
Mr. Emmanuel Ghartey who is the administrator/Programme Manager for WACCBIP also gave an overview into the management of the grant. The key points raised included the following:
- The award letter from the TRUST has been received by WACCBIP as well as all the Northern partners. Not all regional partners have received theirs.
- There is the need for strict legal and research practice compliance as well as good governance.
- The trust has to be acknowledged on all publications and disseminations of research. There are 5 different branding logos, which may be used depending on the type of support, received by the trust.
- There needs to be well drawn out plan on intellectual property rights and exploitation between partner institutions, the center and the trust. The MRC is still ironing out these details with the center administration.
- MOUs have to be drawn up between the center and non-UK partner institutions concerning funds disbursal and the signing of the grant start certificate by all partners is key to the initiation of fund disbursal to all partners.
- The official grant start date of the WACCBIP-DELTAS at UG was 1st September 2015.
- The trust will pay independently for open access publication cost.
Ms. Emefa Adzadu, the Accounts officer of the centre also gave an exclusive presentation on “Budget and costs, financial management and reporting”. She explained the financial report format and the key points were as follows:
- The reporting template is complicated
- There has to be quarterly reporting
- Cash advances are paid 2 quarters in advance based on the cash request.
- Invoices from parent institutions should not be sent to UG but must be kept for follow up audits.
Dr. Osbourne Quaye the Head of Monitoring and Evaluation of WACCBIP was given the opportunity to present on “Developing Monitoring and Evaluation Plans” for the DELTAS Programme which was discussed extensively. The main focus is to monitor and assess the program based on coordination, capacity building, costing, products of scheme and dissemination methods of the products. SMART indicators based on quantity and quality will be employed in the M and E process.
Some other deliverables were discussed to be included in the M & E assessments. They include:
- Number of travel fellowships awarded to student and fellows
- Number of re-entry grants awarded
- High quality of publications and not necessarily number of publications
- The need to set up a publication committee to provide preliminary reviews as well as decide on choice of journals for publications.
- The affiliation list of authors must also be review the publications committee.
- There was a proposal for the center leader to write a commentary/ policy paper to introduce the program and put it out in the public domain.
- The number of patents awarded
- The effective brain circulation of the products of the program/alumini
- The student evaluations of PIs and vice-versa
- The establishment of a quarterly newsletter with the suggestion that a graduate student intern can perform this role.
After Dr. Osbourne Quaye’s presentation, day one of the meeting was brought to an end.
The second day of the meeting commenced with a presentation from Dr. Theresa Manful Gwira who is the graduate student coordinator on the Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology (BCMB) programme structure, admission requirements, teaching and research.
The current structures include the following:
- MSc. Biochemistry – 1 year taught courses and 3 months short research and report
- MPHil. Biochemistry; Molecular Biology; Molecular Cell Biology of Infectious Diseases – 1 year taught courses and 1 year full time research
- PhD. Biochemistry; Molecular Cell Biology of Infectious Diseases – 1 year taught courses (university policy) with flexibility in electives taken; 6 months experiential learning (which in this department doubles as the start of the project work) and 2 and an half years of full time research. The candidate should pass a 3 pronged comprehensive exam which includes a written proposal, oral defense of the proposal and a 3 hour sit-down written exam by the end of the 1st semester of the second year.
Dr. Patrick Kobina Arthur took over from her with his presentation on DELTAS Human genetics programme curriculum, Student Recruitment/Enrolment Strategies, Supervision & Mentorship. Both presentations were thoroughly discussed and participants made many constructive suggestions. Two new courses will be introduced into the existing PhD Biochemistry course, these are (1) Population Genetics and Genetics Epidemiology and (2) Molecular mechanisms of Genetic Diseases. The aim was to have the courses ready by January so the department and college can approve it by May for running in August 2015. The key deadlines were to have the draft courses ready by mid- December with the final version (100 word count) ready by end of December. This should include a reading list of between 5-7 books and or journals articles.
Discussions on the centre ICT infrastructure needs and plans towards the development of an e-learning platform. During this period, Ms. Ama Dadson from University of Ghana Computing Systems gave a presentation on the ICT infrastructure of the university with regards to supporting the programme. Comments and suggestions were made by participants on how improve the ICT infrastructure to ensure proper and adequate support for the programme. Topics around bioinformatic tools and equipment requirements were discussed and initiatives to kick start a functional bioinformatics training laboratory were discussed as well.
Dr. Gordon Awandare gave closing remarks after all topics for discussion were exhausted and the meeting was officially closed at about 3:30 pm.
The centre would like to express their profound gratitude to the WACCBIP team, WACCBIP affiliates, Partner Institution representatives and all participants for their presence and their contributions in diverse ways to ensure the realization of the goals of the meeting.