Dr Leopold Tientcheu Djomkam wins the K43 Emerging Global Leader Award

Dr Leopold Tientcheu Djomkam wins the prestigious K43 Emerging Global Leader Award from the USA National Institutes of Health (NIH) – Fogarty International Center (FIC). The five year K43 award of US$ 539,205 will further Dr Tientcheu’s independent career development, research and training plans. He will spend time in both South Africa and the USA working with his mentoring team led by Prof Beate Kampmann (MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM) and Prof Daniel Kalman (Emory University, USA), and includes Prof. Robert Wallis (Aurum Institute, South Africa), and Dr Alfred Ngwa (MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM).

Dr Leopold Tientcheu Djomkam

Dr Tientcheu is the first scientist within the MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM to be awarded this type of fellowship from the NIH. The award will allow him to extend his research into how Tuberculosis (TB) has evolved with human populations such that the clades of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC), known to be closely associated with human migratory pathways can affect outcome of treatment. He hypothesises that the clinical outcome of infection with different MTBC lineages is determined by specific human and MTBC interactions and that tailored therapeutic approaches are therefore needed.

He obtained an MSc in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology at the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon in 2007, where his research training began with a project using molecular tools to identify genetic mutations that confer drug resistance to MTBC. Subsequently, in 2013 he obtained a PhD in Immunology at LSHTM on a competitive MRC fellowship.  His study titled “Differences between the immune responses of M. africanum (Maf) – and M. tuberculosis (Mtb) – infected patients” supervised by Prof Hazel Dockrell and Dr Martin Ota,  revealed that in The Gambia Maf-infected patients respond relatively poorly to the standard TB treatment regimen compared to those infected by Mtb.

As a postdoctoral researcher, Dr Tientcheu led laboratory aspects of the Childhood TB Program headed by Prof Beate Kampmann, aiming to improve diagnosis and understand childhood TB transmission. Leopold has authored 14 publications with 4 as first author. He generated and characterized a collection of auto-luminescent and auto-fluorescent MTBC lineages commonly circulating in Africa. This enables real-time analysis of bacillary viability and enumeration in culture. Leopold has, trained and supervised several staff at BSc and MSc level and supported PhD student research.

“I am honoured and delighted to receive this award as it will help me to fulfil my long-term career goal of being an independently funded fundamental/translational infectious disease scientist. This can be achieved by using state-of-the-art methods to investigate how the interaction between pathogen and host population genetic diversity impacts the outcomes of infection, treatment and vaccines in order to develop optimal approaches to reduce the burden of tuberculosis in Africa” says Dr Leopold Tientcheu.

“Dr Tientcheu has worked incredibly hard to obtain this fellowship and made excellent connections with our US and South Africa collaborators. I am sure he will bring this prestigious fellowship to full fruition and I am really pleased that one of our postdoctoral African scientists has been able to attract this kind of funding from the NIH” states Prof Kampmann.