The Crick Africa Network (CAN) is set to extend for a further five years, supporting more young African scientists to build their careers in research, thanks to a £7.5 million investment from LifeArc, the self-funded charitable medical research organisation.
CAN, supported by LifeArc, will offer career accelerator fellowships for postdoctoral biomedical researchers to develop their research into translational scientific programmes and to become independent scientists, building their careers on the African continent.
Jean Langhorne, the director of CAN, said: “Low- and middle-income countries face the biggest threats from infectious disease, climate change and related health impacts. However, their scientists, who are best placed to pose and answer the right research questions, often lack the resources and connections. We are committed to redressing this imbalance and creating equitable partnerships with scientists in Africa.”
She added: “We’ve already seen incredible success from our previous fellows who are establishing themselves as science leaders, growing scientific and training capacity in Africa, and contributing to global biomedical research. We’re delighted to develop CAN further and partner with LifeArc, who will bring their expertise and financial support to the network.”
Funding and support
CAN Fellows will receive four years of funding, hosted at one of five African partner institutions: University of Cape Town (UCT); Stellenbosch University; West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP); University of Ghana; Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); MRC/ Uganda Virus Research Institute and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit.
They will also have the opportunity to utilise the world-class research and laboratory facilities and platforms at the Francis Crick Institute as well as at LifeArc’s state-of-the-art facilities in Stevenage and Edinburgh. They will be offered mentorship and support in grant writing, publications and research ethics, as well as in translational science and commercialisation, delivered by LifeArc’s Academic Engagement team.
“Our aim is to focus our efforts where patient need is greatest and where we can make a valuable contribution.”
Professor Valerie Mizrahi, UCT’s principal investigator for this fellowship, said: “I am absolutely delighted that UCT will be participating in the next phase of the CAN as one of the five African partner institutions. During its first phase, the CAN supported four outstanding early-career researchers at UCT, all of whom have remained at UCT and are flourishing as independent researchers. “The translational focus of the new CAN programme provides a unique opportunity for promising early-career researchers with an interest in translational research to build their careers through mentorship and support from world-leading experts at the Francis Crick Institute and LifeArc while based at UCT. Through the innovative Technology Development Fellowship scheme, the CAN will also provide us with a unique opportunity to build expertise in developing and managing core facilities at UCT, modelled on the Science Technology Platforms at the Crick.”
In addition to the career accelerator fellowships, CAN will now support technology development fellows – one-year training posts for African-based scientists in the management and development of science and technology platforms which provide critical technical research support.
LifeArc is focused on translational science – bridging the gap between academic research and clinical development. It provides funding, research and expert advice, all with a commitment to having a positive impact on patient lives. Having LifeArc as part of CAN will bring a unique translational focus to the programme, ensuring that research addresses unmet medical needs and brings basic discovery science closer to the development of new diagnostics, vaccines and treatments.
Dr Mike Strange, the head of Global Health at LifeArc, said: “LifeArc is committed to investing over £100 million in global health, with a focus on infectious diseases, over the coming years. We are delighted that our first announcement as part of this is our support of the Crick Africa Network. Our aim is to focus our efforts where patient need is greatest and where we can make a valuable contribution. Pursuing collaborative partnerships like this that drive innovation and help create a more equitable and sustainable global health research ecosystem is core to what we are trying to achieve. We look forward to working with the Fellows as they build their careers.”
Since CAN was established in 2017, 18 Fellows have progressed through the programme, building their own careers and furthering their research in infectious diseases.
Achievements from the first cohort include:
Peter Quashie, a former CAN Fellow, is now the deputy director of research at WACCBIP, University of Ghana. He said: “The leadership training that I benefited from early on in my CAN Fellowship was instrumental in helping me plan my career, supervise students and staff, and apply for grants.
“By allowing flexibility to pursue COVID-19 research when other research had stalled, CAN allowed me to shine and become known as a scientist of repute, beyond HIV. As a result, I drove a lot of centre-level COVID-19 projects and helped obtain over US$3 million in funding for WACCBIP.”
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