12 January 2022
Dr Abdul Karim Sesay, Head of the Genomics Strategic Platform at the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2022, recognising his services in charity and medical research.
The New Year Honours List for 2022 recognises people who have made achievements in public life and committed themselves to serving and helping the UK.
Dr Sesay moved to the MRCG at LSHTM in 2017 and led the setting up and operation of the Unit’s genomics core facility. In July 2021, he was appointed as Head of the Unit’s Genomics Strategic platform, following years of developing genomics capacity in the Unit. The platform is designed to promote and facilitate the smooth processing of samples and analysis of results by linking together different departments and services. It will further develop the Unit’s capacities to carry out ground-breaking research in diseases of public health importance in The Gambia and West Africa.
In 2019, the Unit’s genomics core facility under Dr Sesay’s leadership, became the first and only service provider for the Oxford Nanopore Technology (ONT), GridION platform in Africa after attaining the standard requirements by ONT.
Dr Sesay led impressive work on SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing that has contributed significantly to The Gambia’s COVID-19 response. This includes close collaboration with the Gambian Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Laboratories, where he led the setup of the COVID-19 testing facilities as well as training for personnel. This increased capacity has translated into significant results, leading to The Gambia being ranked 6th in the world for the percentage of SARS-CoV-2 samples sequenced.
In addition, he has also been able to establish strong collaborative links with West African institutions in the field of genomics, enabling them to identify circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.
Reacting to the news of his award, Dr Sesay said, “I am really chuffed by the news. I must thank so many people for this award for their love, support, and constant encouragement – my wife and children, my family, friends, mentors and coaches, colleagues and acquaintances. I feel so grateful to you all. I have always believed I am blessed; now I know I am truly blessed.”
Professor Umberto D’Alessandro, Director of the MRCG at LSHTM, congratulated Dr Sesay on his award. He said, “This is a great achievement for Dr Sesay and an honour for the Unit as it recognises Abdul’s contribution to medical research throughout his career, including these last few years in our Unit. We are very proud and happy to have Abdul among us. Heartfelt congratulations.”
Beyond his remarkable contributions to medical research, Dr Sesay is also recognised for his charitable works, raising money for education and sports projects in The Gambia. In 2009, he raised over £2700 by cycling 300 miles across The Gambia, exceeding his £2000 fundraising target to replace a thatched grass nursery school with a permanent brick building.