WACCBIP Holds Second Research Conference
There was high turnout and enthusiasm as the University of Ghana witnessed the second internationally recognized research conference of the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP). This year’s research conference took place on July 6-7, 2017 at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana. The research conference was under the theme “Building capacity for high quality biomedical research”.
The two-day event showcased the immense commitment of WACCBIP to academic excellence and intellectual quality of young talented African scientists. It also created an avenue for presenters to interact and share their knowledge and skills acquired in their learning and research pursuits with participants. The conference attracted several keynote and plenary speakers from local, regional and international partner institutions of the center.
The conference commenced with opening remarks from the Director of WACCBIP, Prof. Gordon Awandare. He welcomed the esteemed group of academicians, scientists, policy makers and general public to the sharing of WACCBIP’s research findings.
He emphasized that WACCBIP takes pride in achievements gained so far and will continue to be at the forefront of championing Africa-led research. He further asserted that, the conference will not only engage partners and stakeholders with student’s research achievements but also seek to gain insight and feedback from them.
Prof. Francis Dodoo, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Development (RID), graced the occasion as Chair of the conference. He congratulated WACCBIP for choosing a theme that seeks to empower and train young scientist by investing resources in their capabilities.
He gave a brief history of the University of Ghana since its establishment and described that a lot of sacrifices had been made to sustain its existence adding that the Office of Research, Innovation and Development is proud to be associated with the success of WACCBIP.
Prof. Francis Dodoo advised that since a country’s true strength is its people, governments should make conscious effort to prevent brain drain. He gave a hypothesis and named “the structure” of many African countries as a challenge thus the need to raise the bar for quality education. He said students should also be given international mobility as part of their training, as WACCBIP is doing. He expressed his excitement at the enthusiasm, commitment and the ability of WACCBIP students to espouse and communicate their intelligence to lay people. He opined that having quality training in Africa can be improved through policy development and engaging industries to translate findings into practice.
Prof. Kwadwo Ansah Koram, Director of Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research also gave brief remarks. He applauded WACCBIP for training and investing in young scientists and was hopeful that more opportunities will be explored with the achievements of WACCBIP. He added that young people should be mentored and molded to sustain younger and innovative ideas. He also called on government to develop a national research fund to support research as a matter of urgency, and to emulate other African countries who are making strides in supporting research in their countries.
Prof Isabella Quakyi from the School of Public Health, University of Ghana, gave remarks on behalf of the President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was excited about the conference. She duly acknowledged WACCBIP for its outstanding contribution to promoting the study and dissemination of knowledge in the sciences in Ghana and the continent at large. She encouraged students to take the opportunity that WACCBIP presents and thrive on this mission for national development. She also called on the sub-region to continue to work together across disciplines and boundaries in order to promote regional development and transformation.
Professor Daniel K. Asiedu, Provost of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences also gave brief remarks. He acknowledged WACCBIP as one of the flagship units of the college that has pulled international recognition which the college is proud to be associated with. He opined that WACCBIP’s vision is in line with the key role of making the University of Ghana a research intensive institution. He was also proud of the grants and funding that provide scholarships to students, resulting in the department of Biochemistry having the highest graduate intake in the college.
In an address delivered on behalf of the World Bank Country Director, Mrs. Eunice Ackwerh commended WACCBIP for holding such a prestigious conference. She praised the University of Ghana for having two African Centers of Excellence (ACEs) under the World Bank Project of which WACCBIP is one of them. She reiterated the World Bank’s commitment to promoting regional transformation through education, health services and increasing agricultural productivity by building on science and technology with the aim of helping to develop economies, end poverty and boost shared prosperity.
She declared that WACCBIP is making giant strides in strengthening the capabilities of students by delivering quality training in applied research to address many of Africa’s health challenges. She emphatically stated that, the bank is not only interested in giving out funds but interested in results. She shared some success stories of WACCBIP which included, leveraging additional funds in addition to the World Bank’s funding, the first ACEs to obtain international accreditation from the Royal Society of Biology, UK, exceeding the targeted 44 publications to 122 publications, partnering with 15 institutions internationally and locally, exceeded the targeted PhD enrolment of 40 to 41 students with an impressive intake of 39% females. She further added that WACCBIP’s ability to attract and recruit regional students makes it a hub for leadership in health research. She was confident that this year’s research conference will have a far reaching impact.
Dr. Oliver Wills, the International Operations and Partnerships Adviser of the Wellcome Trust shared that, Ghana has made an impressive development in technological advancement despite the many challenges confronting the continent. He was proud of WACCBIP’s ability to build capacity and identify opportunities in mentoring young scientists. He also gave alarming demographical statistics that show that in the year 2050, poverty will increase due to population growth in sub- Saharan Africa, therefore there was the need for African governments to invest in scientific research to reduce poverty. He was hopeful that the next Nobel Laureate will come from Ghana looking at the contribution WACCBIP is making in science development. He described the theme for the conference as relevant and timely, given the times African countries find themselves in.
Dr. Thomas Maina Kariuki, Director of Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), officially opened the conference. He was delighted to be present at such an august occasion which seeks to invest in people and contribute to science research knowledge. He was appreciative of the energy and optimism that students have exhibited at the opening ceremony and reiterated the commitment of the African Academy of Sciences to the development of science in Africa. He was of the view that investing in people reaps positive results thus WACCBIP needs to be emulated.
The keynote address was delivered by Prof Fred Binka, the Founding Vice-Chancellor of the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) in the Volta Region, Ho. He delivered a high-profile presentation on the topic “Building Capacity for High Quality Biomedical Research in Africa: A Ghanaian Experience”. He made the assertion that, high quality biomedical research capacity building is very important and must be planned to achieve measurable outcomes. In addition, strategic planning needs detail costs and appropriate partners to achieve success. He hinted that Africa can improve on research capacity by knowledge innovation, investing in solutions, ability to communicate findings to the public, growing human resources and reducing dependence on international partners.
In his submission, he acknowledged the Navrongo Health Research Centre for its contribution to national and international policy making. He was however disappointed that the amount of money dedicated to research and development by the government of Ghana is just 0.025 percent of GDP and 80 percent of inputs into agriculture, education and health are all from outside sources, which is very worrying to the survival of Ghana as a nation. He also acknowledged the role of the Global Fund as a major contributor in combatting malaria, HIV and TB burden in Ghana. He said a total of USD 911 million has been earmarked for Ghana and an additional allocation of USD 273 million has been made under their new funding model. On the way forward, he entreated universities across the country to collaborate and persuade government to match research funds they generate to support research programmes. This he said will help in the mandate of training world class health professionals to meet Ghana’s healthcare demand.
There were over 28 oral presentations and 26 poster presentations by Masters and PhD students and post-doctoral fellows. The best student presenters were awarded prizes, which included sponsorship to attend an international conference.
There were plenary talks on both days by WACCBIP collaborators, including Prof David J. Conway, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Prof Miguel A. Valvano, The Wellcome Wolfson Institute For Experimental Medicine, Queens University Of Belfast, Dr Abdoulaye Diabate, Institute De Recherché En Sciences De La Sante/ Center MURAZ, Bobo- Diolasso, Burkina faso, Prof Solomon Ofori-Acquah University of Pittsburgh USA, Prof. Ambrose Wonkam, University of Cape Town-South Africa, Prof. Mark Carrington, University of Cambridge, Prof Julian L. Griffin, University of Cambridge, Prof Abdoulaye A. Djimde, Malaria Research And Training Center, University Of Sciences, Techniques And Technology Of Bamako, Mali, Prof Ann M. Moormann, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA USA, Dr Jean Langhorne, The Frances Crick Institute, London, Dr Kevin Tetteh, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Prof Faith Osier, Kenya Medical Research Institute-Center Of Geographical Medicine Research, Kilifi, Kenya.
The two day conference ended with a closing note from the director, who expressed delight at the quality of the presentations and the depth of the discussions. He assured participants to expect more for next year.
Participants were happy about the excellent organization of the conference, particularly the level of expertise and knowledge of the speakers. They were also appreciative of the positive attitude and willingness of presenters to explain concepts, and opportunities to ask questions.
In addition to the core funding from the World Bank and Wellcome Trust, this year’s research conference received support from Carramore International, Merck Pharmaceuticals, InqabaBiotec and Primebiolabs Company Limited.