WACCBIP Holds First Research Conference
In our quest to become the leading research-training centre in West Africa, WACCBIP has launched successfully its annual research conference. The maiden research conference which took place on July 14-15, 2016, at the Noguchi Memorial Institute Conference Hall, served as the official grand opening of the centre since its inception in 2013.
The maiden research conference, which was dubbed “Improving Health through Advanced Research and Training”, also served as a milestone in our development as a centre of excellence for biomedical research with completion of the first MPhil cohort.
The two-day event showcased the immense talent and quality of our young African scientists. The maiden launch attracted over three hundred and fifty delegates and participants from top research institutions, invited guest speakers from Africa, Europe and the USA, as well as the general public. The two-day research conference created an avenue for presenters to interact and share their knowledge and skills acquired in their learning and research pursuits with our participants.
In his opening remarks, the Director of WACCBIP, Prof. Gordon Awandare, emphasized on the vision and mission of WACCBIP and how far the centre has come in providing advanced training and research excellence in the biomedical sciences. He made it clear that WACCBIP will continue to be one of the forces to be reckoned with when it comes to using innovative research and high technological facilities to promote and develop new approaches in the control of diseases. He noted that WACCBIP had built an extensive partnership network across the world and will thrive to maintain and strengthen these partnerships.
Prof. Awandare also expressed his excitement in the increasing number of female enrolment on various training programs offered at the centre. He made an urgent call for corporate entities to support students financially through scholarships for masters and PhD training.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, graced the occasion as Chair of the conference. He expressed his pleasure on being present at the occasion with just some few days to leave office as the Vice Chancellor. He expressed appreciation on the works of WACCBIP, as greatly influencing health policies and development in Africa as well as empowering trainees. He indicated that, he had been given the opportunity to lead the newly formed African Research University Alliance (ARUA), which comprises of sixteen leading institutions with strong record in research training programs, and sees WACCBIP aligning itself to the same vision. This, he says, shows how University of Ghana has been recognized internationally in research development. Prof. Aryeetey encouraged the students to take advantage of the platform provided by the conference to interact, share ideas and learn from senior researchers as well as their peers. He disclosed that an amount of $1 million was allocated to support faculty research and participation in conferences which will contribute to the university’s research outputs.
Prof. Kwadwo Ansah Koram, Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), also gave brief remarks on the Institute’s commitment to researching on national health priorities. He commented that NMIMR was ever ready to collaborate on important research activities. He called on all stakeholders in the sub-region to pull together resources in supporting this vision.
Dr. Owen Laws Kaluwa, the World Health Organization (WHO) country representative to Ghana, officially opened the conference. He emphasized how the WHO is committed to supporting research innovation. He noted that infectious diseases research is one of the key areas that the organization supports and called on world leaders to be committed especially in the areas of HIV and TB.
The first keynote address was delivered by Prof. Keith Gull of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford. He is also the Chair of the WACCBIP international advisory board. He congratulated the university on its support for research and gave a rousing presentation on Capacity Building for Health Research in Africa. He enumerated the increasing number of focused research initiatives on molecular microbiology in Africa and described Africa as the hub for real Science Research Leadership, which is a great step into the future. He urged the young scientists to take research to the higher level. He described the 21st century as a century of life sciences, and that capacity building is more about people than money. He gave selected examples of Africa’s health research centres that have been improving. He added that Africa should encourage women into the sciences.
Dr. Abraham Hodgson, the Director of the Research and Development Division of the Ghana Health Service, also gave his keynote address on health research priorities. He threw more light on the relevance of setting the research agenda in Ghana. He further indicated that a five year plan had been drawn to provide relevant topics on improving quality health service delivery and malaria control programs. The plan he said, serves as a guide, not only for the Ministry of Health and its various implementing agencies, but also for stakeholders to contribute directly or indirectly to improving the nation’s health.
There were over 37 oral presentations and 15 poster presentations by post-doctoral, PhD, and MPhil fellows, and the best student presenters were awarded with the opportunity to attend an international conference. There were plenary talks on both days by Dr. John Michael Ongecha (Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kisumu), Dr. Kevin Tetteh (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK), Prof. Lars Hviid (University of Copenhagen and Rigshospitalet, Denmark), Prof. Solomon Ofori-Acquah (University of Pittsburgh, USA), Prof. Oliver Billker (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK), Prof. Ambrose Wonkam (University of Cape Town, South Africa), and Prof. Douglas J. Perkins (University of New Mexico, USA).
Other dignitaries present were, Prof. Samuel Agyei-Mensah (Provost, College of Humanities), Prof. Jennifer Welbeck (Dean, School of Medicine and Dentistry), Dr. Constance Bart-Plange (Head of the Malaria Control Programme), Prof. Mark Carrington (Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, UK), Dr. Jack Sunter (University of Oxford, UK), Prof. Kirk Deitsch (Cornell University, USA), and Prof. Isabella Quakyi (School of Public Health, UG)
The two day conference ended with a closing note from the Director, who told the participants to expect more next year. Participants were happy about the excellent organization of the workshop, particularly, the focus of the conference.
This year’s research conference received support from Carramore International Limited, Merck Pharmaceuticals, Inqaba Biotec West Africa Limited, and Kasapreko Company Limited.