The MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG) is one of two research units established in sub- Saharan Africa by the Medical Research Council UK and is the MRC’s single largest investment in medical research in a low and middle income country. MRCG represents an outstanding concentration of scientific expertise and high quality research platforms in the West African region. The Unit’s investigator-led research is underpinned by the combination of excellent laboratory facilities and easy access to the field with well-defined populations that are highly supportive of our research, excellent clinical services, rigorous ethical procedures and ability to deliver GCP-compliant clinical trials. Our large research portfolio spans basic research to the evaluation of interventions for the control of diseases of public health importance in sub-Saharan Africa.
Improving health and saving lives through research. Research at MRCG is conducted into three research themes, a structure that provides important opportunities for inter‐theme synergy namely; Disease Control & Elimination (DCE), Vaccines & Immunity (VI) and Nutrition Theme as well as Maternal & Neonatal Health as a cross-cutting theme. The research portfolio of The Unit spans basic scientific research (immunology, microbiology, virology and molecular biology), clinical studies, large epidemiological studies and intervention trials.
Research is a process to discover new knowledge, defined as a systematic investigation (i.e., the gathering and analysis of information) designed to develop or contribute to general knowledge.
The Unit’s vision is lead health research in West Africa to save lives and improve health across the world.
The scientific vision of MRCG is to contribute to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda by producing evidence base research to improve health in West Africa and beyond.
More specifically, The Unit will contribute to the control of infectious diseases of public health importance in West Africa and sub-Saharan Africa; address the unacceptably high burden of maternal and neonatal mortality; design and implement next generation interventions against nutrition-related diseases through discovery science; and strengthen research on non-communicable diseases.
We receive core funding from the UK government and compete for additional funding from external donors. The large majority of our research projects are funded by external donors while core funding, provides the long term stability needed to support the necessary infrastructure and retain excellent scientists. The stability of The Gambia has contributed enormously to this success, as research projects routinely take several years – and sometimes decades - to yield results.
How can I access care at the clinic?
There are two ways for members of the general public to access our clinical services.
It is possible for individuals to request a private appointment with a consultant. Consultants are not available at all times, but a mutually convenient appointment can be agreed. The fee to see the doctor is D3,000 for the first consultation and D1,500 thereafter. Any tests requested must be paid at the full economic cost. Typically, a set of tests costs of the order of D1,000-D5,000 depending what is included. We usually give prescriptions to be filled outside the clinic, rather than dispensing medication from within. If a private patient is admitted to the ward, we charge a nightly fee. These fees must be paid in cash at the time, we have no facility for credit.
The Gate clinic operates each morning. The clinic gates are typically opened in the early hours and the first 100-150 patients are given tickets to enter. Patients with tickets are seen by a nurse. The nurse can arrange simple investigations and treatment. When a patient has a more complex illness, they will be referred to see a doctor in the MRC clinic.
Please note that MRCG in Fajara does not offer a 24-hour emergency service to the general public.
What clinical services do you provide?
We are able to provide general medical and paediatric services – both outpatient and inpatient. The range of investigations and treatments available to us is limited. We do not have access to endoscopy, CT or MRI scanning, dialysis, high dependency or intensive care facilities. Due to our limited funding, we do not generally provide long term care to patients with stable clinical conditions, but refer these people on to other service providers in the local area.
Are there any vacancies at MRCG?
When vacancies are available, they are advertised on the MRCG website. We recommend that you look there.
I’m planning to travel to The Gambia. How can I get my medication? What do I do if I am sick?
Health services in The Gambia are limited as might be expected in a low-resource setting. They are also changing all the time. It is usually possible to order medications at local commercial pharmacies. This can take some time to arrange, so we advise that you bring a 6-month supply and start work on establishing a local supply as soon as you arrive.
If you are unwell, you should ask your hosts to take you to a nearby health centre. There are a number of different hospitals, private clinics and government health centres offering 24-hour emergency services in the local area.
How does our research benefit The Gambia and West Africa?
Our research generates new knowledge to improve the control of diseases and the health of the Gambian and West African populations. Such new knowledge is used for the formulation of health policies, e.g. management of patients suffering of a specific disease, or introducing a new vaccine or a new intervention to prevent disease.
What are our scientific priorities?
Our scientific priorities are the health priorities of The Gambia and neighbouring countries in the West African sub-region. The ultimate result should be reducing morbidity and mortality in The Gambia and sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. We have also demonstrated a consistent commitment to supporting and developing both research capacity, through training and career development, and health service delivery in The Gambia and across the West African sub-region.
What is our relationship with the government?
There is a strong cooperation between the Gambian Government and the MRCG. Research in The Gambia requires the support and partnership of three elements, the community, the Gambian Government and MRCG, as most projects implemented are done in collaboration with Government partners. This has generated mutual partnerships in implementation, capacity building and resource sharing and optimisation. These strong partnerships are evident in the several health facilities where we operate.
What do we do with samples we collect?
We collect biological samples in the form of blood, urine or stool from research participants recruited into clinical trials for use in research experiments aimed at better understanding the clinical features of certain diseases. The specimens may be used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment approaches, identify potential new therapies and explore opportunities for disease prevention.
How do we communicate the results back to the community?
The Communications Department promotes The Unit’s visibility by organising a broad spectrum of
activities including: conferences, meetings, workshops, open days, outreach events, and seminars for researchers, health workers the local community and the general public. We also publish information about our work on our website, social media, Annual Report (available in French), and quarterly publication, Our Science (available in French).
Where can we be found?
We have our main site in Fajara and three field stations upcountry in Basse, Keneba and Walikunda (in The Gambia), each in a different ecological setting, providing varied research opportunities. Field and laboratory-based work at all our locations is supported by excellent research and clinical facilities.