At the eighth Annual Research Meeting of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), researchers of the Institute revealed that capacity building is essential to eradicating current and future disease threats.
The three-day scientific research meeting organized by the Institute from November 22–24, 2023, under the theme “Strengthening Research Capacity to Mitigate Current and Future Disease Threats: Bridging the Research-Policy Divide” highlighted the crucial intersection between capacity building, scientific research, and public policy in addressing global health challenges.
Some students at the Department of Electron Microscopy and Histopathology during the Open Day
The three-day event began with an “Open Day” on November 22, 2023, which formed part of the activities marking this year’s research meeting.
About 2,700 students from 27 basic, secondary, and tertiary schools attended the opening day and this signified the convergence of educational, scientific, and community engagement while highlighting the Institute’s commitment to fostering a culture of scientific inquiry among students at different levels of education.
Group of students in a lab at the Advanced Research Laboratories, ARL
Prof. Dorothy Yeboah-Manu, Director, NMIMR
In her welcome address at the opening ceremony of the meeting, Prof. Dorothy Yeboah-Manu, Director, NMIMR, explained that the theme for the year’s research meeting resonates well with the African Union’s Vision 2040 to be self-sufficient in terms of vaccine and tool development to respond appropriately to any health threats.
According to Prof. Yeboah-Manu, “Africa is home to about 18% of the world’s population, with 25% of the global disease burden, whereas Africa constitutes only 1.1% of the global scientific research community. This threatens the AU’s New Public Health Order, which aims to enhance the continent’s health and economic security. There is therefore a need for targeted skill and researcher development frameworks with sustained support for doctoral and postdoctoral training that will contribute to bridging these gaps,” Prof. Yeboah-Manu said.
She indicated that the institute’s commitment to capacity building is evident at all levels of the academic ladder. “Since 2019, more than 3,000 individuals, including 38 post graduates and 54 PhDs from different African countries, have been trained in the Institute. This is testament to the Institute’s mandate as a center for professional training.” She reiterated.
Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, Minister for Education
The Special Guest of Honour, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, Minister for Education, in addressing the audience, emphasized the importance of having relevant research outputs, which are essential to transforming society. “I believe that research must produce tangible outcomes for the benefit of humanity.”
Dr. Adutwum used the occasion to commend the government and people of Japan for their continuous support since the establishment of the institute. “We are grateful to the Japanese for the investment they have made in this institute,” he reiterated.
Prof. Julius Fobil, Provost, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana
Prof. Julius Fobil, who represented the Vice-Chancellor as Chairperson, stressed the need for the global community to work together to avoid being caught unawares, as in the case of COVID-19.
According to him, the theme of the meeting aligns with the vision of the university and the Vice Chancellor’s own vision to build capacity that will ensure the sustainable development of the university.
“As the entire world prepares for future pandemics and conducts research that will aid the rapid development of interventions against emerging and re-emerging infectious and non-communicable diseases, building capacity in terms of human resources and the relevant infrastructure are crucial steps,” he added.
Prof. Sir Tumani Corrah, Director, Africa Research Excellence Fund
Prof. Sir Tumani Corrah, Director, Africa Research Excellence Fund, who delivered the keynote address on the topic “Training the Next Generation of African Leaders” on the first day, called on the need for Africans to develop the requisite skills to take charge of health surveillance systems.
According to Prof. Corrah, 25% of the global disease burden resides in Africa. He further indicated that there is a double whammy of infections and non-communicable diseases, with seven (7) epidemics currently happening in Africa.
“Our health systems are under-resourced. We have weak research systems. The key to these problems is funding. We need to provide funding. Africa needs a community of talented emerging health researchers, providing them with the knowledge and skills to carry out groundbreaking research on our continent. And also equip them with the knowledge and skills to sit at the table and talk about equitable partnerships.”
Prof. Moses Bockarie, Associate Editor, International Journal of Infectious Diseases
Prof. Moses Bockarie, Associate Editor, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, delivered his keynote address on “Opportunities and Strategies for Capacity Building in Africa” on the second day of the meeting, revealing that the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014–2016 revealed the limited capacity for biomedical and clinical trials in Africa.
According to Prof. Bockarie, the virus, which mostly affected Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, showed a low level of capacity. “In Sierra Leone, we did not even have any functional lab with a PCR facility in terms of diagnosing viruses. In order to tackle this huge epidemic, British forces were deployed to Sierra Leone to salvage the situation. They had to come immediately to build testing sites, facilities, and treatment centers. The same can be said for Liberia and Guinea, where Operation United Assistance from the United States and the French military forces equally stepped in to take control of the situation”.
H.E Mochizuki Hisanobu, Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, Dr. Guya Guracha, Team Lead, Emergency Preparedness and Response, WHO, Ms. Suzuki Momoko, Chief Representative of JICA were among other important guests who graced the occasion.
Researchers, health practitioners, policymakers, students and the public attended the three day meeting, and this afforded NMIMR the opportunity to receive valuable feedback from stakeholders in evaluating its research programs and activities.
Other speakers included senior research fellows of the institute who presented on research topics such as molecular epidemiology-related research, anaemia prevention research, malaria research and policy, as well as viral research and policy.
The ARM was climaxed with an interesting debate on the topic ‘Clinical trials are not needed in Africa to mitigate current and future disease threats’.
The ARM was attended by over 800 local and research scientists.
Cross-section view of participants at the scientific meeting