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African medical research and training receives Wellcome boost

The Wellcome Trust, the UK's largest medical research charity, has today announced a 20 million investment in research and training in Africa. Its Strategic Awards are aimed at ensuring that local researchers are equipped to tackle the most pressing problems in their region.

The awards, which will fund research programmes across sub-Saharan Africa, will ensure that talented researchers in some of the world's poorest countries can access the training and experience needed to conduct research at a world-class level. With improved training and career incentives it is hoped that African scientists will remain or return in order to build sustainable research programmes that are initiated and led by Africans.

"The future for science in Africa depends on providing the best training opportunities for the brightest young African scientists," says Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. "These important awards will provide first class training opportunities for the potential scientific leaders of the future in Africa. But excellent scientists also need outstanding facilities in order to pursue their work and careers. That is why we are also working with African universities and research institutes to develop programmes to support the institutional infrastructure that is essential to provide a thriving environment for research and for the education of future generations."

The KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, one of the Trust's major overseas programmes, based in Kenya, has received almost 9 million to train researchers, including increasing capacity in the specific areas of translational research, social science research and clinical trials. Importantly, the strengthening of social sciences research within East Africa offers the opportunity to contribute to meeting the health and development goals of the region, whilst strengthening equity in access to health care at household and district levels.

"Strengthening research capacity needs a long term, strategic approach, which this funding will enable," says Professor Kevin Marsh, Director of the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme. "It's about building scientific leadership and recognising that researchers need a critical mass of support from trained research and non-research staff."

Professor Brian Greenwood from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has been awarded over 7 million to support training for African scientists to undertake high quality malaria research in African universities.

"As the world moves towards malaria elimination, Africa will need an increasing number of well trained African scientists to lead this important initiative," says Professor Greenwood.

"This award will help substantially in achieving this goal."

Also receiving funding from the Wellcome Trust are two of the Trust's Senior Research Fellows, Professor Robert Wilkinson at the University of Cape Town and Dr Alison Elliott from the LSHTM. Professor Wilkinson has received 3 million to establish a Centre for Clinical Infectious Disease Research at the university, which will focus on HIV and TB, of particular importance to the region. Dr Elliott has received 1 million to develop infection and immunity research and training within Uganda.

The Wellcome Trust envisages that these four research programmes will form part of a wider, pan-African network that will further strengthen and support research and training in the region.

"By developing wider partnerships and collaborations with key research institutions, policy makers and other agencies, the programmes that we have funded will be able to undertake research that is truly world class," says Dr Walport.


Contact: Craig Brierley
Wellcome Trust

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