The Postdoctoral Programme of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research organized the maiden Scientific conference from 4th-6th May 2017. The two-day conference was organized as part of the Annual Meeting of the International Advisory Board meeting and brought together all past and present Postdoctoral Fellows, Advisory Board Members, Mentors and supervisors. The conference was a unique platform for the Fellows to share their research outcomes and experiences with stakeholders from both the public and private sectors and other members of the community. to provide a platform for the fellows to share their experiences and also the outcome of their studies with stakeholders and other members of the community. Also among the participants where stake holders from the public and private sector.
The theme for the conference was:Postdoctoral Fellowships and the Control of Infectious Diseases of Poverty in Africa.
Professor Kwadwo Koram, Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) and Chairman of the Postdoctoral Programme Implementation Board, in welcoming participants and dignitaries, gave a brief background of the fellowship and took the opportunity to express the Institute’s profound gratitude to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for funding the fellowship. He mentioned that ssince the inception of the program, a total of 20 Fellows have been enrolled and most of them had completed up to two and half years of training. In addition, about 49 graduate students had received financial support to complete their Master’s thesis or dissertations.
He affirmed that NMIMR can boast of being a model for training young African scientists toward building a critical mass for the control of poverty-related diseases through this funding.. He thanked members of the programme’s Advisory Board, Supervisors and Mentors for the commitment and immense support that they have given to the coordinating office .He also expressed profound gratitude to the programme coordinators, staff of NMIMR, and the University community for their various contributions to the programme’s sustenance and outcomes. Prof. Koram, finally introduced the chairperson for the opening ceremony, Sir Prof. Brian Greenwood, who also chairs the Advisory Board of the NMIMR Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme.
In the message read on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, Rev. Professor Patrick Ayeh-Kumi was very happy with the various strides the Institute was making in the area of training scientist and promoting the University’s vision to become one of the Best in Africa. He remarked that since the University declared its intention to transition from a teaching university to a research intensive one, NMIMR as a constituent of the College of Health Sciences of the University has had a key mandate to lead in this process. The conference, under the theme “Postdoctoral Fellowships and the Control of Infectious Diseases of Poverty in Africa”is therefore very relevant since it expresses the primary objective of the College.Hereiterated that this maiden conference is an important platform for the dissemination of research findings and for interaction between researchers and policy makers.
Sir Brian Mellor Greenwood,Chairman on the Advisory Board to the NMIMR Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme, was also the chairperson for the occasion.He said Achieving a PhD is an important first step to becoming an independent scientist, but many African scientist find this challenge especially in finding a position which allows the scientist to further their research without being overwhelmed by teaching or administrative duties is difficult. Thus, the post-graduate training programme established by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was an important initiative. He congratulated all the Postdoc Fellows and hoped their presentations would be remarkable.
The ceremony was graced by the HonourableMinister of State in charge of Tertiary Education Professor KwesiYankah. He said the conference signalled the rebirth of Postdoctoral fellowships and that is meant to boost graduate work in Africa.He said the current development of postdoctoral fellowship is a major breakthrough by NMIMR in seeking to further exposed young African scholars to further training in the control of poverty related diseases. The immediate postdoctoral work in the life of the younger scientist is thus crucial for it may or break their academic future.He concluded by congratulating the younger scholars and Postdoctoral Fellows and again encouraged them to consider participation in the Junior Fellowship Project launched by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Science.
In his keynote address Dr Benjamin Gyampoh, a program manager at the African Acadamy of Science, expressed his excitement to be part of the occasion and paid glowing tributes to the big achievements that NMIMR has made in the area of Medical research in Ghana and the entire continent. He said: “I believe that time will pass and all too soon we will look back at the knowledge and motivation of this week, and see how far we have come with our postdoctoral fellowships in controlling infectious diseases of poverty in Africa.
In helping to address infectious diseases of poverty in Africa, Dr. Gyampoh noted that Postdoctoral fellowships must have high quality sustained relevant research. He concluded by encouraging the senior scientists and Postdoctoral fellows to stay focused on doing research to help our society. What is required is continuous investment in the right programmes that can be expanded and sustained whilst keeping our eyes on the real issues that confront us. As biomedical researchers and especially working here at the Noguchi Memorial Medical Research Centre, we have a critical role in helping to control infectious diseases of poverty in Africa.
The conference continued with various presentations (both oral and poster) from Maters Students on the fellowship as well as the Postdoctoral fellows. Certificates were awarded to participants at the end of the conference with the meeting of the international advisory board crowning the conference.
A section of the Masters students on the Postdoctoral Fellowship
The Government of Japan through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has extended a grant of $21m to construct the Advance Research Centre.
Prof. Samuel Agyei-Mensah Provost of the College of Humanities and Acting Vice Chancellor of the University welcomed distinguished guests and staff present. He used the opportunity to express the University’s appreciation to the Government and people of Japan, as well as JICA for their support to NMIMR and the University of Ghana through the construction of the main building, the Biosafety Level 3 (P3) Laboratory, the Animal Experimentation Laboratories, Conference Hall and the generation of 715KW of power through the Solar Energy Plant among others.Mr. Hirofumi Hoshi, Chief Representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) congratulated the Institute on its remarkable contribution to research and Public Health Service in Ghana, as well as the West African sub-region. He also commended the Institute for leading regional disease surveillance network, capacity building for laboratory and research in West Africa. “ We observed our long standing cooperation has borne fruit. We proudly observe that the Institute has acquired the global recognition as a Center of Excellence in the African region. We expect, the Institute could further strengthen the role for bridging research and health service on the continent” he added.
Mr. Hoshi was hopeful the new centre will make it possible and capable enough of producing high quality evidences that sufficiently meet global standard as well as contributing to create a foundation and environment for achieving UHC, in terms of better preparedness for public health emergencies. He concluded by extending JICA’s wishes for the continued success of the Institute in scientific research to help reduce diseases burden in Ghana and the African region.
Professor Kwadwo Koram, Director of the Institute said the Government and People of Japan have supported the Institute in various ways and have provided the Institute with various maintenance training schedules and also project support through the technical corporations . According to him the idea of looking for a grant started in 2011 during the tenure of Prof. Alexander Nyarko's , a Former Director of the Institute, and was catalyzed as the result of the Ebola epidemic . JICA was approached and in 2014 through the help of the Ministries of Education and Finance and Economic Planning the application was approved resulting in the current project. Prof. Koram reiterated that the success of the Institute both locally and internationally as a leading Centre for Health Resarch and Training in the country and sub-region has meant that we get additional laboratories because the original labs became inadequate for the research work.
Professor Koram was optimistic that the Advanced Research Centre will enable the Institute maintain its position and help explore the opportunities which will be provided in the opening of the University Medical Centre, as well as play a leading role in disease surveillance and contribute to the activities of the Africa and Regional CDC.
H.E. Kauro Yoshimura, Japanese Ambassador to Ghana remarked that the bonds of friendship between Japan and Ghana will continue to blossom and pledged their continuous support to the country.
The Special Guest of Honour Hon. Shinsuke Suematsue State Minister for Land, infrastructure, Transport & Tourism, Japan, said it has been 90 years since Dr. Noguchi came to Ghana and he felt privileged to be part of the expansion project. He was also overwhelmed by the research carried out and promised Shimizu Corporation will work hard to complete the project as scheduled .
The Minister of Health, Hon. Kwaku Agyemang-Manu said that it should be a collective desire of all stakeholders to provide a modern and an advanced technological intervention for prevention and control of infectious diseases in the country. He mentioned that Infectious diseases remain a leading cause of death in developing countries and among children globally. He was hopeful that the health system in the country will be enhanced with the construction of the new and advanced research centre.
“The Ministry of Health is ever ready to collaborate and support any cause in this direction. As the Ministry responsible for ensuring Ghanaians are healthy and free from infections, we are more than happy that this project is coming on board during the period when the Ministry is also collaborating with the 37 Military Hospital to resource the Debra Ward for managing infectious diseases with a comprehensive training plan. We also intend to construct a Centre for Infectious Disease Control and Study as a strategy to mitigate the emergence of new infections” he stated. He extended Government’s gratitude to the Government and people of Japan for the immense investment they have made in Ghana, particularly in the health sector.
H.E Sylvester Parker Allotey, Ambassador of Ghana to Japan said the sod cutting ceremony to start work on the expansion project was an extremely joyous one since it has been exactly 40 years when there was a sod cutting ceremony to begin the construction of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research. The project he said involved scientists from both countries and he paid glowing tributes SATREPS group which have been working with the Institute for reemerging pathogenic diseases. He praised staff of the institute for the good work being done and various researches carried out.
In his address, the Minister of State in charge of Tertiary Education Hon. Prof. Kwesi Yankah, mentioned that the Government has noted with keen interest the continued support of scientific research at the University by the Government of Japan that has changed the country’s disease profile. He said the Government prioritized agenda to fight infections and called for the expansion of the Institute’s facility to ensure that the targets are met. Prof. Yankah conveyed Government's gratitude to the Government of Japan for the many facilities that had been acquired through their support . This he noted has enabled the country to contain major disease outbreaks and recalled the several interventions the NMIMR made during the Ebola virus outbreak.
The event, he noted also signifies the strengthening of the bond of friendship between the two countries through the sectors of health, trade and education. He congratulated the University and the Institute for the remarkable diligence to continue to uphold the local and international confidence reposed in the Institute.Other dignitaries who graced the occasion were;Hon. Kwesi Amoako-Atta, Minister for Roads And Highways, The President for Japan Africa Infrastructure Development Association and Chairman for the Board of Directors for Shimizu Corporation, Mr. Yoichi Miyamoto, Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare- Director General, Ghana Health Service, Professor Ernest Aryeetey- former Vice Chancellor, delegation from Japan, Provosts, Colleges of Health Sciences and Basic and Applied Sciences, Deans and Directors of the University community.
The dignitaries toured the site and planted trees to commemorate the event.
An African regional workshop titled, “Strengthening surveillance for seasonal and rapid response for pandemic influenza in the African Region” was held at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, from 3rd to 7th April, 2017.
Workshop participants in a group photograph
The workshop was a joint collaboration between NMIMR and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta as well as the World Health Organization.
The five-day workshop focused on recent Avian Influenza outbreaks in Africa, review sample collection and shipment, protocols for influenza virus detection and global platforms for influenza data sharing. It again centred on introducing tools for pandemic risk assessment (TIPRA) and emphasizes the One Health Approach for rapid response for pandemic influenza.
Expected outcomes of the workshop included reinforcement of rapid response and control measures for avian influenza for a better understanding of the risk assessment process for pandemic influenza and improved networking on influenza surveillance in the African Region.
A short ceremony was conducted to welcome all the participants.
The delegates were first welcomed by Prof. William Ampofo (Head of National Influenza Centre – NIC, Ghana) to Ghana and to the five days workshop which promised to be educative and knowledge centred.
Prof. Kwadwo Ansah Koram, Director of the Institute also addressed participants and gave them a brief history of the institute and its mandate to conduct research into diseases of public health concern in the country and sub-region. He mentioned the provision of high level laboratory training, laboratory investigations and outbreak support for the Ghana Health Service, and post-doctoral trainings for students from various African countries. He also noted the lack of robust surveillance systems to pick up early warning signs of disease in the African region with reference to the recent Ebola outbreak. He commended WHO, CDC and the Ghana NIC for promoting One Health by inviting experts from different fields, laboratory, epidemiology and the veterinary for the workshop. He hopped that the workshop will be the beginning of long-lasting collaborations between countries and the links formed at the workshop will support the activities and plans of the new African CDC.
Dr. Owen Laws Kaluwa (WHO Country Director – Ghana) commended the great effort and partnership of the US CDC - Influenza division, WHO and the NMIMR for organizing the workshop. He indicated that, the occurrence of avian influenza outbreaks in 2006 and influenza A (H1N1) pdm 2009 triggered coordination of regional preparedness for future outbreaks. At the end of 2016, a total of 34 countries in the African region had established influenza laboratories with minimum standards that provide data to WHO and CDC. The recent outbreaks of avian influenza among poultry in Africa highlights the need for continuous operation of appropriate detection and response mechanisms. He highlighted the support for capacity building efforts to improve monitoring and detection of influenza-like-illness and severe acute respiratory infections in Ghana and the African region. He encouraged the participants to take full advantage of the learning opportunities provided by the workshop to acquire knowledge and skills that will help improve and strengthen influenza surveillance and laboratory systems in their respective countries.
Dr. Dan Baden(US CDC Country Representative)expressed his appreciation to be amongst influenza experts from various African countries to deliberate on issues regarding risk assessments and pandemic preparedness. He gave an update on the contributions of the US CDC to HIV, malaria, immunization, emergency response and influenza virus surveillance activities in Ghana and the partnership between CDC and WHO to increase influenza surveillance capacity in Africa. He concluded by stressing that, in as much as a lot of successes have been reached in the African region, a lot of work still remains. He encouraged the participants to take the opportunity to learn, share stories and experiences and form networks and partnerships to enable effective information sharing to the benefit of Africa and the world population at large.
Friday , 7th of April marked the end of the five-day workshop.
Representing the US CDC Dr. Pamela Ching expressed their heartfelt appreciation to everyone. She hoped the participants enjoyed the workshop and were able to establish new relationships with colleague to share information.
Dr. Magdi Saaman on behalf of WHO HQ also thanked Prof. Ampofo and his team for planning and executing a well-organized workshop. He also thanked all the participants for coming, as it was a pleasure discussing the different topics on influenza. He encouraged the participants to share what they learnt with their colleagues back at home who did not get the opportunity to participate in the workshop.
Dr. Belinda Herring WHO AFRO thanked the University of Ghana, NMIMR and Professor Ampofo for organizing and hosting a great workshop. She said it was incredibly successful and she got to learn a lot from the different countries.
Prof. William Ampofo was grateful to the participants and urged them to continue the partnership which to help build a strong influenza surveillance network and bridge the data gap in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The workshop ended with the presentation of certificates to the participants.
The workshop was attended by fifty-eight (58) participants comprising of epidemiologists, laboratory scientists and veterinarians from twenty (20) African countries namely: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nigeria, Niger, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo , Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
There were eight (8) facilitators from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NMIMR. A representative from the African Society of Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) and the African CDC were also present.
A section of participants during group discussions
The five-day workshop included PowerPoint presentations, Group exercises and Case studies, Skype video presentations with sharing of good practices and experiences among the participants and facilitators.
The workshop was funded by the US CDC, WHO and ASLM with logistical support from the NMIMR Office of Research Support.
JICA delegation with some staff of the Institute in a group photograph
The purpose of the visit was to observe JICA’s activities in Ghana and more especially to see NMIMR which is the symbol of cooperation between Japan and Ghana. This year also marks 90 years after Dr. Hideyo Noguchi arrived in Ghana.
The delegation was first met and welcomed by the Acting Director Prof. Kwabena Bosompem .
Professor Bosompem welcoming Mr. Koshikawa and delegation to the Institute
Mr. Koshikawa was taken to tour the Pagoda where the ashes of Prof. Kenji Honda ( Japanesse Scientist through whose joint effort with Prof. Charles Easmon,that the Institute was built) and the Japanese Resident Architect were laid.
The team was later received at the office of the Director. Welcoming the team, Prof. Bosompem reiterated the Institute’s pleasure to have them visit the Institute. He was much appreciative of the continual and constant support of JICA and Japanese Government towards the management and staff of NMIMR. He said through the NMIMR-JICA collaboration, the institute has recorded remarkable achievements in research and training of many Research Scientists. We have also lived up to the mandate of conducting research into public health importance and support public health programmes of the ministry of health and the Ghana health services.
The Senior Vice President was very much impressed by the way the Institute has been maintained. He mentioned that the efforts of all staff have made the Institute grown to play very important role in Ghana and the West Africa Region and that need to be commended.
He was really happy to observe the proof of the cordial relationship between Ghana and Japan and reiterated that they will do everything possible to maintain this collaboration.
The team was finally taken to tour the biosafety level 3 (P3) laboratory of the virology department. Dr. Kofi Bonney gave a presentation on the samples received as well out the outcome during the Ebola crisis and again on the various researches that are conducted in the laboratory.
Dr. Bonney interacting with the team at the P3 Laboratory Prof. Ampofo exchanging pleasantries with Mr. Koshikawa
The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research on Thursday 16th March, 2017 donated to the children’s ward department at the university of Ghana Hospital.
The donation was the first of its kind by the Institute to the hospital to show love to the children at the ward.
The Institute Administrator, Mr. Okyere Boateng presented the items on behalf of the management and staff. He mentioned that the items were bought from proceeds of contributions of staff during last year's carols festival organized at the Institute. He said it was meant to support the pediatricians and nurses towards the efficient running of the ward at the hospital.
Mrs. Philomina Ofi Duah, the Chief Nursing Officer who received the items on behalf of the staff of the ward was very elated. She said they are overwhelmed by the gifts. “Having thoughts of children at the hospital whiles you are outside is worth mentioning, children are the apple of God’s eye and thank you for remembering us" She added. Mrs. Duah asked the good Lord to replenish and bless all staff of the institute. She hoped that this will be the beginning of more to come.
Rev Seth Asamani who was part of the delegation also prayed with family and children at the hospital for a speedy recovery.
Among the delegation also, were the staff welfare executives. The items donated included cups, diapers, wipes, bowls for sterilization, gloves, spoons , buckets and disinfectants.
Staff of the ward and delegation from the Institute in a group photograph.
Dr. Samuel Adjei Welfare Chairman presenting the items to one of the mothers at the ward.