The West Africa Research Platform

West Africa bears a high disease burden while local research capacities need to be developed further. There are several international and national funding initiatives and programmes addressing these issues. The MRCG recognises its unique positioning in the West Africa Region and intends to contribute and influence programmes aimed at creating a strong research and training hub able to respond to the regional needs.

Our goal in West Africa is being implemented through activities centred around

  • The development and implementation of joint collaborative research proposals, taking advantage of newly established research institutions in several West African countries;
  • The development of strategic relationships with well-established institutions, aiming to establish a shared pool for human resources, equipment and infrastructure;
  • The development of initiatives aiming at helping young researchers towards scientific independence, including mentoring programmes, support to institutions for researcher development programmes, and initiatives for building capacities for research support activities;
  • Use of existing networks for creating greater awareness of the need, significance and necessity for sustainable biomedical research in our communities. This involves advocacy and networking with decision and policy makers.

The Unit has established a strategic partnership with Université Cheikh Anta Diop (https://www.ucad.sn) and  the Institute de Recherche en Santé de Surveillance Epidémiogique et de Formation (IRESSEF) (https://iressef.org) through an alliance called the West Africa Global Health Alliance (WAGHA). In addition, the Unit has established a Memorandum of Understanding with the Institut Pasteur de Dakar (http://www.pasteur.sn). We will seek to establish similar initiatives with other established research institutions in the Region.

The expected combined effect of the above initiatives is both the promotion and development of the next generation of West African scientists, and the creation of a platform of resources and infrastructure from which scientists, both within and outside the networks, will be able to build their research programs. Eventually, we expect an increased contribution of West African scientists to the global health research agenda.

Professor Martin Antonio

Prof Antonio is MRC Principal Investigator and the Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for New Vaccines Surveillance (WHOCC NVS). He is a member of the MRC Unit The Gambia Strategic Leadership Board and Chairs in the Unit’s West Africa Strategy and partnership. In this role, he represents the Unit at all regional meetings in West Africa including the West Africa Global Health Alliance, ECOWAS, Africa CDC, WHO, West Africa Health, EDCTP, BMGF, GAVI Alliance among others.

Prof Antonio's research is focused on the leverage of new molecular technologies in diagnosis of tropical infections, investigation of microbial outbreaks and transmission, antimicrobial resistance and clinical trials. Prof Antonio leads a number of large-scale international research projects, including serving as the WHO regional reference laboratory for invasive bacterial diseases (IBD) and establishing large IBD surveillance platforms across twelve countries in West and Central Africa for measuring pneumococcal vaccine impact. More recently, applying molecular tools to understand the impact of air pollution on the nasopharyngeal microbiome and epidemic meningitis in Africa. Prof Antonio has published more than 165 peer-reviewed scientific publications and supervised nine PhD students in UK universities.

Mr. Dembo B Kanteh

Mr Dembo Kanteh holds an MBA degree from the Open University in the UK. He is the Coordinator of the West Africa Research Platform. Dembo Started work in the MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM in 1999 as Trainee Administrative Manager. Over the years he has had considerable experience in administration, grant, programme and project management in a wide range of areas in the organization. In 2010 the Unit strategically shifted to seeking 100% of its research funding from competitive sources. A Research Support Office was established and Dembo as head was tasked to manage the processing of grant applications. Under his guidance the department has grown significantly until his departure in 2016 to manage the West Africa Research Platform. He presents extensive experience in contract negotiations, building multi centre grants, training and capacity development of project managers and other research management professionals.