Dr. Kwadwo Asamoah Kusi of the Immunology Department of NMIMR is the recipient of a science achievement gold award at the 1st National Youth Achievers Awards (NYAA), held at the Accra International Conference Centre on 25th October 2012. The awards scheme was under the auspices of His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana for youth (15 – 35 years) who are considered to have made a significant contribution to their field of endeavour.
The programme was organized by Charter House Productions with sponsorship from RLG Communications Ghana Ltd.
Dr. Kusi’s award was based on his PhD work on the development of malaria vaccine candidate antigens. He worked as part of a team that undertook the development and pre-clinical testing of three Diversity-covering (DiCo) AMA1 proteins as malaria vaccine candidate antigens at the biomedical Primate Research Centre in Rijswijk, the Netherlands. His work focused on assessment of humoral immune responses to polymorphic variants of AMA1 and the formulation of multi-allele AMA1 antigens with adjuvants as vaccines. His contribution in this process resulted in five peer-reviewed publications.
The DiCo vaccine candidate, which is a mixture of the three DiCo antigens, has successfully undergone GMP production and is expected to undergo toxicology, clinical safety and immunogenicity assessment in a non-endemic population soon. These activities are with support from the European Vaccine Institute (http://www.euvaccine.eu/portfolio/project-index/ama1-dico and http://www.euvaccine.eu/node/651#KAK).
Dr. Kusi is currently working on the development of malaria transmission estimation tools at the Noguchi Memorial Institute together with scientists from the Naval Medical Research Centre of the US Military malaria Vaccine Program.
Award received: 2012 National Youth Achievers Gold Award (Science category)
The title of my poster was Cross-reactive carbohydrate determinants in peanut allergy in Ghana: high peanut-specific IgE sensitisation without skin reactivity or reported symptoms". Briefly, her presentation was that although the prevalence of peanut allergy has increased in developed countries little is known about developing countries especially where there is high peanut consumption. The aim of the study was to investigate the prevalence of peanut allergy in Ghana among school children 5-16 years using different parameters and found elevated peanut specific IgE levels without peanut skin prick test reactivity or reported symptoms to peanut, which establish that this was primarily due to helminth-induced cross reactive carbohydrate determinants.
Although EAACI started out with a European focus, it now has more than 6800 members from 107 countries and 41 National Allergy Societies. The Annual Congress of EAACI is the largest meeting of basic scientists and clinicians working in the field of allergies and clinical immunology in Europe. The overall purpose is for the extensive and efficient communication of the science as well as novel developments in the field of allergy, asthma and immunology to the rest of the world. As part of the annual congress, a special poster session is held at the opening night of the congress for all Junior Members and Affiliates (JMA) to share their study findings.
When I started my work as a researcher of diarrheal diseases 25 years ago, it was believed that all diarrhea was caused by bacteria. I had an electron microscope, and I used it to demonstrate that, in fact, a virus was behind many severe cases of diarrhea in Africa. It has been my life’s work to demonstrate the importance of rotavirus because here in Ghana, as in other African countries, the burden of diarrheal disease is so great. Yet there could be a simple answer—a vaccine.
Dr. William Kwabena Ampofo, Senior Research Fellow and Head of Virology Department, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana, Legon..
You joined the University of Ghana in 1987 as a Research Assistant in the Virology Department, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, College of Health Sciences and have risen through the ranks to your current position of a Senior Research Fellow.
Your hard work, discipline, dedication to duty and devotion to the vision and objectives of your department and Institute resulted in you being nominated to participate in various academic and extension activities culminating in the award of a US Department of Defence Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response program Medal of Achievement in 2009 and also as a Commonwealth Scholarship Commission Fellow at World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Influenza, National Institute for Medical Research, U.K.
Special mention needs to be made with respect to your career milestones including the first isolation of wild type poliovirus in Ghana, confirmation of the first cases in 2007 of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus in Ghanaian poultry and establishment of the National Influenza Center in Ghana (2007) and the supervision of the laboratory detection of the first ever cases of Lassa Fever virus infection in rodents and humans in Ghana.
You have since your appointment contributed your quota to teaching and research on HIV, Hepatitis, Influenza, and Poliomyelitis among others. The staff of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research appreciate your loyal service to the Institute.
In recognition of your contribution to promoting the College of Health Sciences as a place of learning, research and excellence in the University of Ghana, the College of Health Sciences is proud to confer on you the
BEST RESEARCHER AWARD FOR THE HEALTH SCIENCES, 2013
We salute and congratulate you.
The Vice Chancellor’s Academic Prize was awarded to Dr James A.M Brandful for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation in Science for 2012 Congregation, Great Hall, May 4th, 2012. The award was based on his doctoral thesis leading to the degree of PhD in Medical Micro -biology obtained in June 2009.
A short summary of PhD thesis work
This was titled ‘Genotypic and Phenotypic Characterization of HIV Type 1 in Parts of Ghana’. The study examined 40 samples collected in 2002/3 from HIV-1 AIDS disease and asymptomatic patients prior to antiretroviral therapy (ART). The focus was on under-investigated areas of Ghana, covering the middle and northern belts. Genetic diversity and the potential for emergence of resistance to antiretroviral drugs in this group and therefore implications for ART were examined.
Main observations included the following: A diversity of non-subtype B HIV-1 strains was prevalent. The simultaneous circulation of these diverse variants, even in a small sample size, suggested that changes in the genotypic profile of HIV-1 in Ghana will continue.
Majority of the isolates were non-syncytium inducing R5 viruses even in late disease stage. Syncytium-inducing or X4 strains also co-circulated, but were rare. Genetic sequence data indicated that antagonists to R5 viruses could therefore be extremely effective theoretically as antiviral agents for HIV-1 strains from Ghana, along with two broad neutralizing monoclonal antibodies, namely 2F5 and 4E10.
The transmission of drug resistant (DR) HIV-1 strains through CRF02_AG, even before the initiation of ART was probable. PR V11I mutation, among others, was observed in patients with CRF02_AG and CRF06_cpx infections, recombinants chiefly now responsible for AIDS in Ghana. The use of darunavir (DRV) and fosamprenavir (FPV), not currently included in the ART regimen prescribed in Ghana had to be avoided in such patients.
The identification of DR-related mutations in drug-inexperienced patients constituted important new information that is relevant for ART in Ghana. Also the study had far-reaching implications for possible new clinical interventions from phenotypic aspects of the work.
The diverse genetic profile of HIV-1 in Ghana has to be continuously monitored.