WACCBIP Holds Sixth Research Conference

Dr. Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, Presidential Advisor on Covid-19 delivering a speech at the Conference

Dr. Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, Presidential Advisor on Covid-19, has called on scientists to develop creative and innovative ways of deepening engagement with policymakers at the early stage of their research. Dr. Asamoa-Baah was speaking as the guest speaker at the 6th Research Conference organised by the West African Centre for Cell Biology and Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) under the theme: “Building Forward: Elevating African Research, Innovation and Output”.

Explaining that this will cause policymakers to have a sense of ownership and ensure appreciation of the work done, he urged scientists not to leave out the media in the engagement process as they play a vital role in disseminating scientific information to the public. “Given the level of science and health literacy in our part of the world, the media is a crucial partner but unfortunately, our engagement with the media turns to be quite superficial”, he stated.

Dr. Asamoa-Baah indicated that excellence in conducting research, training and teaching, developing proposals and managing project resources, needs to be harnessed with the inclusion of policymakers. He urged them not to involve them only include after winning grants as that will not enhance the desired results they require from policymakers. “So we need to engage policymakers meaningfully. It is through that engagement that we will also be able to mobilise the type of resources that we need”, he added.

Dr. Anarfi in his speech offered gratitude to the management of the University and WACCBIP for the crucial role they played during the surge in Covid-19. He conveyed his impression on the contribution of WACCBIP to scientific growth in Africa. “Within a short time, you have become a world-class excellence for training and research. I can confirm that the work of the Centre has a lot of influence on the national Covid task force”, he stated.

Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, Vice-Chancellor, in her remarks as the Chairperson of the event applauded WACCBIP for the excellent work since its establishment in 2014. She was impressed with the achievements and the tremendous impact WACCBIP has made both within the University, across Ghana, and Africa at large. “WACCBIP is one of our flagship research units and one of the three World Bank Centres of Excellence here at the University of Ghana. Since its establishment in 2014, I have keenly followed WACCBIP’s incredible growth to becoming a world-class research centre, which has gained outstanding globally recognition for research and excellent graduate training”, she added. 

Prof. Amfo indicated that the University of Ghana is poised to distinguish itself in research to make impact at both the domestic and global front. She stated that an international conference like the WACCBIP’s Research Conference is well placed and consequently promotes the achievement of the University’s vision of becoming a world-class research-intensive university.

Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo

Noting that WACCBIP is one of the few self-financing units in the University, Prof. Amfo commended the leadership of WACCBIP for attracting more than $40million in grants which have been invested in developmental purposes in the University. “I commend WACCBIP’s leadership not only for winning handsome grants, but also for their vision of investing resources for the growth and developments of UG”, she stated. Prof. Amfo expressed enormous gratitude to WACCBIP’s funding partners who have retained so much confidence in the leadership of the Centre and the University, by continuing to commit resources to WACCBIP for research and training.

Prof. Amfo disclosed that WACCBIP and other two World Bank Centres of Excellences are currently working closely to support initiatives by Management of the University to enhance the University students’ experience through digitalization. “The University is very grateful for their resourcefulness and commitment to institutional development. I want to assure you of Management’s unflinching support to ensure you continue to excel and raise the flag of UG very high globally”, she stated.

Professor Nadia Sam-Agudu, Senior Technical Advisor, Pediatric and Adolescent HIV at the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria in her keynote lecture on the topic “Building Sustainable Research Partnerships and Productivity in West and Central Africa”, highlighted collaborative work done with colleagues to expand the critical mass researchers and research mentors needed to boost and sustain research aptitude and productivity in West and Central Africa. Prof. Sam-Agudu emphasised on the measures of research productivity and noted the need for research to have impact on policy and practice.

A cross-section of participants at the opening of the Conference

Prof. Sam-Agudu leveraged examples from clinical research and implementation science in pediatric and adolescent HIV and SARS-COV-2, and stressed on the role equitable partnerships play in advancing health and research outcomes in Africa. Noting that equity drives productivity and sustainability, Prof. Sam-Agudu expressed the challenge of working with no equity. “There is a huge problem working without equity. People feel they are not treated fairly for their work”, she stated 

Prof. Gordon Awandare, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Academic and Students Affairs and Director of WACCBIP, in his welcome remarks expressed gratitude to all present for the event. He was grateful to collaborators, supporters and funding partners for believing in the vision of WACCBIP and staying with it. Prof. Awandare stated the vision of WACCBIP and expressed the importance of ensuring that research conducted in the Centre is communicated to the community, hence the essence of the conference. Prof. Awandare noted that annually since 2016, the WACCBIP Research Conference has been held, where the Centre showcases it research. He added that majority of the presentations are usually from trainees. “We have had about hundred research trainees in the program at for Masters, PHD and Post doctorate. Cumulatively, since 2014, we have had over three hundred trainees from fifteen African countries and annually we provide this platform for trainees to share their research findings and to engage stakeholders in the community”, he stated.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Academic and Students Affairs and Director of WACCBIP, Prof. Gordon Awandare,

Prof. Awandare emphasised the need to dwell on the positive lessons from the Covid pandemic and acknowledge the challenges to inform strategies in dealing with such situations. Throwing light on some lessons from the pandemic, he expressed the need for African scientists to tell their own story. “We have to tell the story of how the pandemic unfolded on the continent. We have heard various versions of how the pandemic unfolded in Africa. We need to tell our own story”, he stated.

Referring to the challenge of testing and diagnosis during early days of the pandemic, Prof. Awandare expressed the need for Africans to build capacity for diagnosis and to build scientific capacity to discover our own vaccine and develop them right here in Africa. “This is one of the critical lessons that we have to learn from this pandemic”, he added.

Earlier, Prof. Boateng Onwona-Agyeman, Provost, College of Basic and Applied Sciences, warmly welcomed all those present for the event. He applauded the Centre and the organizers for the time, energy, effort and money invested in to the programme. He gave a brief overview of the University of Ghana and when it adapted to the collegiate system of governance. He laid emphasis on the activities of the Centres and institutions in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences. Prof. Onwona-Agyeman expressed delight about the progress being made by CBAS’ units and institutes and noted his confidence in more productivity in the College.

Dr. Sylvia Mkandawire, ACE Programme Manager, African Association of Universities and Dr. Alphonsus Neba, Deputy Director of Programmes, Scientific for Africa Foundation also made some remarks as stakeholder representatives.

The keynote lecture on the second day of the event was delivered by Dr. Peter Kojo Quarshie, Deputy Director of Research, WACCBIP, on the topic ‘Insight and Opportunities from SARS-COV-2 research at WACCBIP. It also featured a panel discussion on “Biotechs, Innovation and Start-Ups” and other fellow’s sessions and plenary talks.

The last day of the event equally had a keynote lecture, delivered by Dr. Bismarck Dinko, Senior Lecturer in Parasite Biology and Immunity, University of Health and Allied Sciences, on the topic “Biology and Immunology of Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes: Opportunities for transmission-reducing interventions”.  It was followed by plenary talks and fellows session.

A group photo featuring participants present at the opening of the Conference

Present at the event opening were Prof. Daniel Frimpong Ofori, Provost, College of Humanities; Prof. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, Director, West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement; Professor Solomon Ofori-Acquah, Director, West African Genetic Medicine Centre; Prof. Dorothy Yeboah-Manu, Director, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research Mrs. Elizier T. Ameyaw-Buronyah, Director, Public Affairs Directorate; Deans from the College of Basic and Applied Science; Heads of Departments; members of the University community and students.