2022 Africa Research Excellence Fund Report

May 20, 2022

Since launching in 2015, AREF has awarded fellowship funding to 46 early career health researchers. Our latest call will see a further 19 fellowships awarded with placements due to start between June and December this year.

To date, of those 46 fellows, 23 have won £2.7m research funding which includes funding from the FLAIR fellowships, the NIH R01, the Wellcome Trust, EDCTP, AESA, Royal Society UK and THET.

Our growing alumni now consists of 300+ members – who are developing new collaborations, sharing funding and job opportunities and providing mutual support. Across all our programmes, including fellowships, AREF’s alumni have secured £9.6m funding and produced 48 world-class publications.

Our peer-review network is also increasing. We have recruited 70 mid-senior level researchers who are based in Africa, or work on Africa relevant research anywhere in the world. They are peer reviewing fellowship applications, mentoring early career researchers and participating in our grant writing workshop programmes.

Below are a couple of examples of AREF fellows: one currently on placement and one from the 2015 cohort.

Dr Agbo Achimi Abdul

Dr Ago Achimi Abdul is currently on placement at University College London from his home institution, Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné (CERMEL), Gabon. His fellowship project is looking into developing a tuberculosis sequencing pipeline for Gabon.

“TB is endemic in Gabon. We face a lot of multidrug resistance, which is a challenge for our public health system. Our research question is to define the range of resistance-associated mutations in the Gabon cohort.

To address this question, my project will study TB patients and make the molecular characterisation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains to help us determine the mutation and correlate it to the resistance.

This study will enable us to begin to map the transmission and evolution of drug-resistant TB in Gabon. This will place our data in the context of regional and international data and thus inform appropriate approaches to the management of tuberculosis in this community.”

Dr Agbo Achimi Abdul is pictured here with Professor Sir Ali Zumla at UCL Centre for Clinical Microbiology.

He also featured briefly in a short video by Professor Sir Ali Zumla.

Assistant Professor El Hadji Amadou

El Hadji is one of AREF’s earlier fellows. He received an award in 2015 and spent time at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to learn techniques in mapping the genome of mosquitos. In 2017 he was awarded £220,000 from the Wellcome Trust.

“The AREF Research Development Fellowship was a huge stepping-stone for me,” he says. “The most important way it helped was by developing connections to be able to form collaborations. It’s these collaborations that will help me apply for my own grants.”

Earlier this year he wrote to Professor Corrah with news of his promotion:

"I have taken another step in my journey to becoming one of the most influential leaders in my field in Africa and worldwide. Indeed, I have recently been hired as an Assistant- professor at Université Cheikh Anta Diop and appointed as the Deputy Director of the Laboratoire d'Ecologie Vectorielle et Parasitaire, my home laboratory where I was trained as a student.

It is also a great achievement for AREF, which trusted me and invested in me a few years ago. I can't thank you enough for this opportunity that has given a boost to my career, and I am sure that more successes are still to come. This is because you believed in me and offered me the chance to brighten when no one did."

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