The West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) at the University of Ghana and its research partners have been selected as one of 14 leading science consortia to receive funding under phase two of the Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training, and Science in Africa programme (DELTAS Africa II).
The DELTAS Africa II programme, which was launched by the Science for Africa Foundation (SFA) in Nairobi on March 14, 2023, is a USD 70 million programme jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust and the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
The programme seeks to build world-class research and African scientific leaders for the continent while strengthening African institutions.
This second phase of the DELTAS Africa programme funds 14 consortia in nine African countries, with WACCBIP as the lead institution in Ghana. The consortia are led by 14 world-class research leaders who were selected from 150 applicants through a highly competitive process, with WACCBIP’s Prof Gordon Awandare winning the grant for the second time. Each consortium will receive USD4.4m over four years to produce quality scientific data and train new science leaders.
According to Professor Awandare, “the vision of WACCBIP DELTAS II is to build on our successes from DELTAS I, by providing high-quality training and advanced research on the mechanisms underlying the development of infectious diseases (IDs) and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).”
He further highlighted that although a significant public health concern, the co-occurrence of IDs and NCDs provides a unique opportunity to understand the relationship between infectious exposures and NCDs in ways that are no longer possible in resource-rich nations.
“We intend to use deep research approaches to obtain a more thorough understanding of the disease mechanisms for some of the major infectious and non-communicable diseases affecting African populations. and have assembled a top-class team of scientists from institutions in Africa, Europe, and the United States to conduct high-quality research and training for young African scientists. By providing advanced laboratory-based research and training to build the skills necessary for effective disease surveillance and control of drug resistance, development of new diagnostic tools, drugs and vaccines, and characterization of genetic predictors of risk of NCDs, our team seeks to address the double threat of IDs and NCDs facing Africa” he added.
Priority IDs include malaria, tuberculosis, bacterial infections that infect internal parts of the body, COVID-19, HIV-AIDS, and hepatitis B and C, while NCDs of interest include cancer, renal disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, and non-syndromic hearing impairment.
In addition, the project will significantly impact health research capacity by training 60 graduate interns,15 master’s students, 12 PhD students, five early-career postdoctoral fellows, two advanced technology training fellows, and two senior research fellows.
The Centre will also enhance the skills of at least 250 health sector professionals through targeted short courses, and build research infrastructure in several collaborating and partner African institutions to enhance their capacity for high-quality research and competitiveness for future research funding.
The WACCBIP DELTAS II will be implemented with partners at the institutional (West African Genetic Medicine Centre and Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research), regional (Medical Research Council unit, The Gambia, University of Liberia, University of Lagos and University of Cape Town), and international (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Cambridge, Francis Crick Institute, UK, and Johns Hopkins University, USA).
About the DELTAS II Programme
DELTAS Africa II, set to run from 2023 to 2026, supports 14 programmes in 75 institutions, across 36 countries, which now includes institutions in North Africa and Lusophone countries that had previously not been covered. The consortia, led by world-class African research leaders, recognise the interconnectedness of Climate Change, Food Security and Health and the necessity to balance research excellence and equity. DELTAS Africa II emphasizes intra-African collaboration, engagement and partnership between institutions that are relatively well-resourced and those that are low-resourced.
“The DELTAS Africa programme paves the way for new scientific leaders who address Africa’s most pressing public health challenges and generate data and evidence that informs policy and Africa’s development agenda. Through phase one, we have already seen how impactful science funding can be. These scientists have contributed to health policy development globally, improved research infrastructure and increased scientific knowledge through peer-reviewed publications and innovations in health. The funding built a critical mass of globally competitive research leaders who are now internationally recognised,” says Dr Alphonsus Neba, Deputy Director of Programmes and DELTAS Africa Programme Manager, SFA Foundation.
“In this second phase, we are advancing a programme that is truly pan-African, multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary. Together, we bring a wide range of expertise to address the challenges faced by our continent and to ensure that researchers and institutions are not left behind in efforts to close the critical gaps in the science ecosystem. This all to ensure healthy and productive nations for acceleration of economic growth,” says Dr Tom Kariuki, Executive Director, SFA Foundation.
DELTAS Africa II follows an initial five-year programme launched and funded by Wellcome and FCDO in 2015 with phase I of the programme implemented by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD).
Cheryl Moore, Chief Research Programmes Officer at Wellcome says “Wellcome is committed to funding ambitious and creative research across Africa that takes on some of the most pressing health challenges facing our world. We are very pleased to be working with the SFA Foundation and partners to support high-quality, world-leading research across Africa, developing the continent’s growing research and development sector”.
“In addition to funding research, support from Wellcome and the UK government is directed towards the development of global standards for grant due diligence, research management, open access to science and enabling public participation in research. These components are an essential part of strengthening the wider research ecosystem to enable partner countries to deliver sustainable economic growth in line with national and UK priorities,”- Dr Jordan Kyongo, Research & Innovation Adviser, British High Commission, Nairobi
DELTAS Africa II, which is now being implemented by the SFA Foundation, continues to invest and increase Africa’s research capacity by growing the number of science leaders producing quality scientific data and information for evidence-based decision-making whilst strengthening the African R&D ecosystem.
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