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Home > News > Global Health Matters > Global Health Matters Jan/Feb 2019 > New fellowship program will bring African scientists to train at NIH Print

New fellowship program will bring African scientists to train at NIH

January / February 2019 | Volume 18, Number 1

A postdoctoral fellow and a senior investigator, both in lab coats, collaborate around a computer in an NIH lab.
Photo by Chia-Chi Charlie Chang for Fogarty

Dr. Nana Amissah from Ghana is training with NIH senior
investigator Dr. Michael Otto as part of the new African
Postdoctoral Training Initiative.

By Shana Potash

A new NIH fellowship program aims to prepare future generations of African researchers while establishing ongoing scientific partnerships between NIH labs and African investigators and institutions. The African Postdoctoral Training Initiative (APTI) is a collaboration of the NIH, the African Academy of Sciences and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Fogarty is managing the partnership.

During the four-year fellowships, NIH will provide two years of training with principal investigators who share the fellows’ research interests. The African scientists will then return to their home institutions and receive two years of support to help them continue their research and establish themselves as independent investigators.

Ten fellows chosen for the inaugural cohort will assume their NIH positions by early 2019 and another cohort is expected to be recruited in 2020. NIH and the Gates Foundation together are expected to provide about $4 million for the program.

“Our goal is to equip these talented African fellows with the skills to become scientific leaders, prepared to help solve their country’s health challenges and train future generations of researchers,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins, whose intramural research lab will host one of the fellows. “By designing the African Postdoctoral Training Initiative to begin at NIH and then continue at their home institution, we aim to prevent ‘brain drain,’ build sustainable research capacity, and establish long-term collaborations between U.S. scientists and African investigators and research institutions.”

The fellows chosen for the 2019 cohort come from six African countries: Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and Egypt. They have been matched with labs from seven institutes at NIH and will study diseases and conditions that are research priorities in their respective countries, including infectious diseases, maternal and child health, and diabetes.

“It’s an opportunity to learn new techniques, new skills,” said Dr. Nana Ama Amissah, a fellow from Ghana who is training with Dr. Michael Otto, a senior investigator with NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), who shares her research interest in the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium. Because S. aureus can reside in chronic wounds, Amissah has been investigating if and how it might delay the healing of buruli ulcers - a potentially devastating skin and tissue infection that is caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans and occurs mainly in tropical areas including West Africa.

Noting that Amissah has had interesting results on a specific lineage of S. aureus, Otto said “she can benefit very much from the research environment at the NIH right now to dig deeper.”

During the fellowship Amissah will be learning and conducting basic science she couldn’t do back at home. She took courses in molecular biology and recombinant DNA technology to prepare to work with Otto, who is chief of the Pathogen Molecular Genetics Section. “If there’s anything I don’t understand, I go to him and then he explains it better,” Amissah said.

Amissah and three other fellows will be working in NIAID labs. The other NIH institutes hosting 2019 fellows are the National Cancer Institute (NCI); National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI); National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI); National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK); National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR).

The fellowship program targets early career scientists who have doctoral degrees and less than five years of research experience. Candidates must also be citizens of an African country and employed at one of the continent’s academic, research or government institutions.

“It is imperative to strengthen African scientific leadership to advance health and development goals on the continent. We are thrilled to partner with the NIH and the African Academy of Sciences to support these 10 outstanding researchers working to solve the world’s greatest health challenges,” said Dr. Trevor Mundel, President of the Global Health Division at the Gates Foundation. “To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the world needs to accelerate innovation and global scientific collaboration. Training from NIH, one of the world’s foremost biomedical research institutions, will help these scientists develop the transformational solutions the world and their communities urgently need.”

2019 African Postdoctoral Training Initiative Fellows and NIH Hosts

  • Fellow: Dr. Idowu Aimola
    Home institution: Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria
    Host institution: National Human Genome Research Institute
    Research area: diabetes, maternal and child health

  • Fellow: Dr. Nana Ama Amissah
    Home institution: Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Ghana
    Host institution: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
    Research area: infectious diseases

  • Fellow: Dr. Thomas Hormenu
    Home institution: University of Cape Coast, Ghana
    Host institution: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
    Research area: diabetes

  • Fellow: Dr. Musa Kana
    Home institution: Federal University Lafia, Nigeria
    Host institution: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
    Research area: tuberculosis, respiratory diseases, child health

  • Fellow: Dr. Rania Labib
    Home institution: Children’s Cancer Hospital, Egypt
    Host institution: National Cancer Institute
    Research area: child health

  • Fellow: Dr. Hamma Maiga
    Home institution: Institut National de Recherche en Santé Publique, Mali
    Host institution: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
    Research area: malaria, maternal and child health

  • Fellow: Dr. Bartholomew Ondigo
    Home institution: Egerton University, Kenya
    Host institution: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
    Research area: malaria

  • Fellow: Dr. Kolapo Oyebola
    Home institution: University of Lagos, Nigeria
    Host institution: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
    Research area: sickle cell disease

  • Fellow: Dr. Irene Offei Owusu
    Home institution: Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Ghana
    Host institution: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
    Research area: infectious diseases, viruses

  • Fellow: Dr. Markos Tesfaye Woldeyohannes
    Home institution: St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, Ethiopia
    Host institution: National Institute of Nursing Research
    Research area: child health

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