Crick African Network to train top African scientists

21 July 2017 | Story Supplied. Photo Supplied.
Prof Robert Wilkinson (left), group leader at the Francis Crick Institute and director of the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa at the University of Cape Town, photographed with researchers at UCT. Robert led the proposal and will direct the Crick African Network programme.
Prof Robert Wilkinson (left), group leader at the Francis Crick Institute and director of the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa at the University of Cape Town, photographed with researchers at UCT. Robert led the proposal and will direct the Crick African Network programme.

The Francis Crick Institute and five partner institutes in Africa have today announced a fellowship programme to train African researchers to tackle infectious diseases in their home countries.

 

The programme, called the Crick African Network, is supported by a £6 million grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund, a five-year initiative led by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to address problems faced by developing countries.

This winter, the Crick Institute and its African partners will hold workshops in each of the partner African countries to promote the fellowship scheme and to help potential applicants develop strong proposals. Applications will then open for the first round of fellows in July 2018, and the Crick Institute hopes to welcome the first six African researchers in autumn 2018. An additional 12 researchers will be recruited in two further calls.

Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute, which is a state-of-the-art biomedical research facility in London, said, “We are delighted to receive such promising talent from our partner institutes, and welcome their contributions to our existing research into infectious diseases.”

The Crick African Network aims to promote economic development and healthcare in partner countries by sharing the Crick Institute’s extensive experience researching diseases including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. 

This UK–Africa collaboration will provide successful African postdoctoral scientists with two years of intensive training and mentorship – the first year at the Crick Institute and the second year at their African partner institute – to foster the next generation of research leaders in Africa.

Building on partnerships 

The network will build on partnerships between the Crick Institute and leading research centres throughout Africa. These are the universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town, South Africa; the Medical Research Council (MRC) Uganda Virus Research Institute; the University of Ghana; and the MRC Unit in The Gambia, which is also representing the West African Global Health Alliance. 

“We are now in an exciting position to offer significant career development opportunities to high-flying African health scientists of promise,” says Professor Robert Wilkinson, group leader at the Francis Crick Institute and director of the Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa at the University of Cape Town, who led the proposal and will be directing the programme. 

Dr Gordon Awandare, who is coordinating the University of Ghana’s involvement, said, “This grant responds directly to a critical need for us. Our postdocs will have this fantastic opportunity to link up with top scientists at the Crick, and get access to some of the best research facilities in the world. The best part is that this fellowship will help keep our postdocs in Africa and move them towards the establishment of independent careers at leading research institutions in this continent.”


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