The MRC and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have appointed Dr Brenda Kwambana (MRC Unit The Gambia) as the first West African Global Health Research Fellow. The Fellowship scheme is supported by a £1 million award from the Medical Research Council (UK), with partnership funding from the LSHTM. It is aimed at attracting outstanding early career post-doctoral researchers, with funding for two candidates from West Africa and one from the EU over a three year period.
Brenda Kwambana, an MRC PhD scholar, gained her doctorate in 2011. Over the last three years, she has developed her skills as the Gambia site coordinator of the Gates Paediatric Microbiome Project and coordinator of MRC Unit The Gambia’s Genomics Interest Group. The focus of her Fellowship proposal – iron supplementation – is both important and controversial. Iron deficiency is associated with anaemia, poor brain development and several other diseases. It can be corrected by iron supplementation; however, recent studies have raised concerns about safety, as iron supplementation can increase the risk of gut and respiratory infections. Dr Kwambana will be investigating how this applies to respiratory tract infections, and whether there are more pathogens in children that are given iron supplements which can increase the risk of getting serious infections.
The Fellowship Scheme promises to fill an important gap in sub-regional researcher training. Brenda Kwambana said ‘Such opportunities are quite rare; a lot of funding opportunities are limited to the countries where the money’s coming from. Putting together this fellowship scheme demonstrates the MRC and LSHTM’s commitment to meaningful capacity building in the sub-region. I do hope these opportunities will continue.’