Vaccinology Master’s Level Course in Africa held at the MRCG at LSHTM

9 May 2019

The Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, in partnership with the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford hosted the Vaccinology in Africa course from 29th April to 3rd May 2019, at the Ocean Bay Hotel and Resort.

The host academic leaders for the course were Prof. Beate Kampmann, Theme Leader for Vaccines & Immunity Research (MRCG at LSHTM) and Professor in Pediatric Infection & Immunity and Director of The Vaccine Centre (LSHTM), and Prof. Umberto D’Alessandro, the Director of the MRCG at LSHTM.

The Vaccinology in Africa courses have been running since 2013, under the leadership of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, alternating between West and East Africa. The course covers the main aspects of vaccinology, the vaccine development process, as well as biomanufacturing, regulatory and ethical topics. It is uniquely hosted in Africa with an exceptional faculty of African and international academic and industry speakers, and highlights human and veterinary links and synergies from scientific, technological and regulatory perspectives, in keeping with the ‘One Health’ agenda. The course is specifically aimed at students, researchers and professionals, resident in Africa.  Participants are selected by competitive application, based on their direct involvement with vaccine development, and their excellence in professional and academic achievement.

According to Prof Beate Kampmann, the course attracted a wide range of very engaged participants from 12 African countries, representing the range of Vaccinology research from laboratory background to public health.  Discussions were centered on how African scientists can drive the science of vaccinology and vaccine development on the continent, and what can be done to facilitate this process with partnerships. “We are delighted to host the Vaccinology in Africa course alongside the Jenner Institute. I believe we have managed to inspire the participants to think more broadly about vaccinology in the context of what is needed in Africa”.

There continues to be a strong demand for all aspects of vaccinology training in Africa. At current centres of vaccine research and at field trial sites, specialist training in vaccinology constitutes a valuable complement to existing competencies. Further capacity building and investment in African vaccine R&D initiatives and infrastructure would enable more African investigators and health professionals to become involved in, and initiate locally generated projects, as well as strengthen regional input to international vaccine research and development collaborations.

Allan Saul, Director of the GSK Vaccines Institute for Global Health and part of the Faculty remarked that the training is very important for the development of Vaccinology in Africa. “I think we are looking at a new generation of people who are going to be leaders combating diseases in Africa”.

Maria Silvia, a participant from Equatorial Guinea, working at the Health Ministry and Medical Health Development International commended the speakers and trainers for well delivered and comprehensive presentations.  In her remarks, she admitted coming to the course with limited knowledge about vaccine design and related issues. However, she will be going back with knowledge on vaccine ethics, clinical trial designs amongst others.

The course alternates between African regions, and previous courses have been held at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, Ghana (2013); the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya (2014); the Malaria Research and Training Centre & Centre d’Infectiologie Charles Mérieux in Bamako, Mali (2015); and the Makerere University/ UVRI Centre of Excellence in Infection and Immunity Research and Training in Entebbe, Uganda (2017). There is no doubt that apart from updating everyone on the latest progress in vaccine development for many infectious diseases the course has created many useful networking opportunities between Faculty and participants.

The course is delivered with the help of international sponsorship from the Jenner Vaccine Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Vax Hub, VALIDATE Network, HIV-Vac Network, International Veterinary Vaccinology Network, and Janssen.