Over 65 researchers from 16 countries have received 1.5 million dollars in funding through the African Researchers’ Small Grants Program (SGP) for research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).

Neglected Tropical Diseases are a group of diseases which affect the world’s poorest and robs them of the opportunity to work and thrive in good health, especially in Africa, which bears the highest burden of these diseases. Yet leadership by African scientists to set the agenda for NTD research and advocacy remains limited partly due to inadequate funding and low research capacity.

To address this concern, the African Researchers’ Small Grants Program (SGP), implemented by the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD) and funded through the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (COR-NTD) with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) from the U.K. government, was designed.

Dr. John Amuasi, the Executive Director of ARNTD was elated about the impact the Small Grants Program has had on capacity-building and career development for young African NTD researchers.

“It is profound how this investment in the Small Grants Program has resulted in opportunities to secure larger grants for these talented young researchers, as well as the skills and knowledge transfer towards capacity building,” explained Dr. John Amuasi in his address at one of the World NTD day celebration webinars held on January 30, 2023.

The event, themed Act Now, Act Together – Investing in Young African Research marked the successful implementation of the African Researchers Small Grant Program over the past 5 years and showcased some awardees, their research and how it is making positive impact on the NTD landscape in Africa.

Lum Ambe Abienwi, an awardee and a student from Cameroon, underscored that the grant had not only helped her carry out research towards a doctoral degree, but it also offered her the chance to pull others along through training opportunities the grant offered. She emphasized the need to have such schemes available to African students to help them answer pertinent research questions.

Dr. Michael Frimpong, currently a lecturer with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana and a Research Fellow with the National Institute of Health, USA represents one of such success stories. Through the SGP program, he was able to use a mobile molecular detection suitcase developed together with his collaborators to help identify some NTD-causing pathogens on the field and repurpose it to support Ghana’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Stella Kepha, one of the SGP awardees from Kenya said “SGP has contributed to my formal employment with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMI). It has brought me so much professional visibility and paved a way for new opportunities and larger grants.”

Joe Shott a representative from the USAID charged the NTD community to share with funders how the SGP success could be replicated in other parts of the world. Dr. Dirk Muller from the FCDO was particularly enthused about how SGP contributes to equity in planning, conducting and shaping research.

Dr. Pauline Mwinzi, the Technical Officer SCH & STH at the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) and the first ARNTD Board Chair, who was instrumental in establishing this initiative, moderated the webinar. In her closing remarks she expressed great pleasure at how the investments made in the futures of young African scientists through the Small Grants Program had yielded outstanding results, and strongly advocated for its continuation and expansion.

Over 65 African researchers have received more than $1.5m for NTD research

Dr. Amuasi was excited that more than a third of the close to 300 applications received for the 6th cohort had qualified for full reviews with winners anticipated to be announced soon.  He was pleased that the aim of the Small Grants Programme is being achieved.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.