WACCBIP Hosts Sanger Institute’s Advanced Course on Malaria Experimental Genetics
The world acclaimed Malaria Experimental Genome Course which is delivered by Scientists from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, United Kingdom (UK), has been held at University of Ghana. The five (5) day African regional course on Experimental Genetics Malaria was organized by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in collaboration with West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) from April 30-May 5, 2017.
A group photograph of participants and facilitators
The aim of this workshop was to give participants a working knowledge in cutting edge laboratory-based Plasmodium experimental genetics techniques, from designing gene targeting vectors and creating transgenic parasites, to phenotyping the strains produced. This is only the second time the course has been delivered outside the UK, and the first time it is being held in Africa.
The course was taught by Prof Oliver Billker, Drs Julian Rayner, Marcus Lee, Ellen Bushell, Theo Sanderson, Mehdi Ghorbal Rachel Coyle all from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and was supported by Prof. Gordon Awandare, Dr Yaw Aniweh, Dr Daniel Kiboi from WACCBIP, Dr Amy Kristine Bei from Harvard Malaria Initiative, University Cheikh Anta Diop and Dr Alfred Amambua-Ngwa from Medical Research Council Unit (MRC), The Gambia.
The workshop attracted young scientists and clinicians from Africa namely Ghana, Nigeria, the Gambia, Gabon, Kenya, Sudan, Cameroon and Malawi. In attendance at the opening ceremony were also faculty members and postdoctoral fellows under the Wellcome Trust DELTAS African initiative.
Prof Gordon A. Awandare welcoming participants to the training programme.
In his opening remarks, Prof. Gordon Awandare, the Head of Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology (BCMB) and the Director of WACCBIP, warmly welcomed all participants and threw more light on the importance of the course. He emphasized that the Wellcome Genome Campus Advanced Malaria Experimental Genetics course is a remarkable programme that reflects the excellent and in-depth commitment the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have in malaria research across the world, thus WACCBIP is proud to be associated with such a worthy course. Prof Awandare enumerated the increasing and remarkable impact WACCBIP has made in Africa and said WACCBIP has become a home for all young African scientists. He also added that, the centre’s door is always open for collaborative research in infectious diseases.
He further reiterated WACCBIP’s commitment to significant initiatives that will strengthen capacity for malaria control by training advanced level scientists within the African continent. He was much honored to receive participants from across Africa to engage in hands-on training in cutting-edge Plasmodium experimental genetics techniques. He therefore encouraged participants to fully engage in each practical session which will be stimulating and thought-provoking.
Prof. Matilda Steiner Asiedu, Dean for School of Biological Science, also gave brief remarks. She acknowledged the collaboration between WACCBIP and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute as one that will provide technical leadership to achieve quality health care goals. She further explained that this initiative was crucial because Africa has rapidly evolved with rising patient expectations for quality health care. She was of the view that increased malaria infection affects nutrition and was optimistic that this workshop will help participants to influence governmental policies in their various countries. She therefore challenged the College of Health Sciences not only to train highly skilled professionals but professionals of change in providing quality healthcare.
The Director of Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Prof. Kwadwo Ansah Koram also graced the occasion with some brief remarks on the Institute’s commitment to research on national health priorities. Prof Koram commended WACCBIP for being a hub for science research and hoped that topics taught during the course will translate into achieving a possible malaria vaccine. He called on participants to network and explore other opportunities available at the University of Ghana.
Dr. Oliver Billker from Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and also a lead instructor for the course gave a keynote address. He appreciated WACCBIP for receiving the Sanger team and appreciated the successive exchanges between WACCBIP and Sanger which has built a trustworthy relationship. He further added that the theme for the course was relevant to the achievement of learning Plasmodium genome modification which will build participants’ confidence and develop malaria research.
Dr Julian Rayner, senior group leader of the Malaria Programme at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, also thanked the partners of the programme and said the aim of the course was to facilitate participants’ own research careers by exposing them to state-of-the-art experimental approaches in malaria genetics. He gave a brief history of the Sanger institute and its impact over the past twenty five years (25), which has been a remarkable journey. He further explained that the
Sanger group also aims at “Connecting Science” which means bringing together professional scientists to enable them spread the tools and skills of genomic science. He added that, “We want to create a generation of scientists who will lead Africa’s transformation”.
Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins, Dean of International Programmes and Professor of Social Psychology at the Regional Institute for Population Studies, University of Ghana, also acknowledged WACCBIP for training and investing in young scientists.
This she said, was essential and internationally credible for University of Ghana’s goal of giving opportunities to build a network that will identify and solve Africa’s worst nightmare which is malaria. She again added that the International Programmes Office is privileged to be associated with the first ever Wellcome Genome Campus Advanced Overseas Course in Africa and welcomed all participants to fully engage with the resource persons.
Prof George Obeng Adjei, Director of Research at the Office of Research, Innovation and Development (ORID) at the University of Ghana, was excited about the programme and observed that malaria research has been one of ORID’s focal area and as such his office is proud to be associated with this training. He also added that the caliber of scientists present with varied expertise at this training will not only propel malaria research to its highest peak but will improve participants skills in the knowledge, control, prevention, and management of other infectious diseases.
The opening of the training programme was chaired by the Provost of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, Professor Daniel K. Asiedu. He officially opened the programme by acknowledging that one of the college’s greatest assets was WACCBIP, and that the college was proud to be associated with its achievements which is in line with the key role of making the University of Ghana a research intensive institution. He was proud of the grants and funding that provide scholarships to students, making BCMB have the highest graduate intake in the college. He encouraged the students to “take advantage of the training to become the kind of experts Africa needs” and that, this training will serve as a useful tool to establish and strengthen training activities in Ghana, where malaria is endemic. He concluded by urging the University of Ghana and Sanger Institute to strengthen their collaborative efforts and hold more joint courses.
Participants were then engaged in scientific sessions, where they received lectures and laboratory sessions on CRISPR/Cas9 vector generation, P falciparum transfections, P. knowlesi transfections, Genotyping and Phenotyping including Invasion assays, Drug assays and RNA sequencing.
There were also question and answer sessions where participants shared pertinent ideas and knowledge that would inform the direction and progress of their training and help achieve the objectives of the workshop.
Participants sharing ideas
View all photos from the Course on our WACCBIP Facebook Page