Our 70th Anniversary Celebrations in Basse

Basse’s Open Day on 8 February 2017 marked the start of many celebrations being held this year to mark MRC Unit The Gambia’s (MRCG) 70 glorious years of tackling major infectious diseases of global public health importance in sub‐Saharan Africa and beyond. The event was held at our Field Station in Basse and was a tremendous success.

Known for its reputation as being one of the premier research institutions in Africa, hosting scientific projects funded by a range of international organisations, MRCG’s Open Day was attended by over 300 people including staff, community elders, students and partners from Upper River Region (URR).

Home to several large scale studies within the eastern part of The Gambia, Dr Grant Mackenzie gave a brief presentation on the results of the Pneumococcal Surveillance Project (PSP) which shows the pneumococcal vaccine has reduced substantially (by 55%) the number of children with invasive pneumococcal diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia. Dr Jahangir Hossain presented the Vaccine Impact on Diarrhoea in Africa (VIDA) study and Dr Dora Pereira the Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA) study.

According to Pa Chebo Saine, Head of Basse Field Station, Basse field station has expanded both in size and scope of activities, adding that a lot of ground-breaking research has been conducted there. “The field station currently has some 280 staff and is hosting seven large projects and trials, including the Basse Health and Demographics Surveillance System (BHDSS)”, he added.

Participants at the event including Director of Operations, Joan Vives Tomas, Unit Director Prof Umberto D’Alessandro, Deputy Governor, Cherno Barra Touray, Head of Basse Field Station, Pa Chebo Saine.

Participants at the event including Director of Operations, Joan Vives Tomas, Unit Director Prof Umberto D’Alessandro, Deputy Governor, Cherno Barra Touray, Head of Basse Field Station, Pa Chebo Saine.

“Over the last 70 years, MRCG’s research output has been used to implement interventions that have had and continue to have a major impact on childhood mortality and morbidity, not only in The Gambia but also in other sub-Saharan African countries” said Professor Umberto D’Alassandro, Unit Director. He mentioned some examples such as, The Unit’s pioneering work on insecticide-treated bed nets, vaccines against Haemophilus influenzae type b, prenatal dietary supplementation, hepatitis B vaccine, pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, azithromycin mass administration against trachoma, and seasonal malaria chemoprevention.

Speaking at the event, the Deputy Governor, Cherno Barra Touray expressed gratitude to MRCG for choosing his region to show case its research achievement during its 70th anniversary and said “MRCG has an excellent international reputation for ground breaking research on malaria, viral and bacterial diseases, not only in The Gambia, but around the world.”

 

Students during poster presentations

Students during poster presentations

The second part of the programme featured exhibitions where participants were given a guided tour of our facilities and researchers and young scientist presented their research via poster presentations. There was a play that was organised by staff to educate the local community about the work MRCG conducts, why it is conducted and how it is likely to benefit the URR and CRR community. The community also had a chance to participate with a women’s group and a local band providing musical performance.

 

This was an opportunity to thank the community for their ongoing support, showcase our scientific achievements, give members of the public the opportunity to interact with staff and learn more about research at MRCG.