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PDNA receives DELTAS Africa funding

10 September 2015

Seven leading African researchers are the recipients of major funding from the Wellcome Trust and the Department for International Development (DFID) to establish cutting-edge research and training programmes across the continent.

The DELTAS Africa programmes establish world-class research environments at African universities with a strong focus on creating training opportunities for the next generation of researchers. Many of the awards allow research to be carried out where the health challenges are greatest, and the scheme includes funding for the genetic analysis of drug-resistant malaria across East and West Africa.

Under the leadership of Prof. Abdoulaye Djimdé, the Plasmodium Diversity Network Africa (PDNA) has received funding for a capacity building initiative, the Developing Excellence in Leadership and Genetic Training for Malaria Elimination in Sub-Saharan Africa (DELGEME). A key focus for DELGEME will be improving the understanding and dissemination of genetic data relevant to malaria interventions and eradication programmes.

This new, long-term strategy for funding African science, which has its centre of gravity and decision making process based firmly in the continent, is aimed at supporting the next generation of researchers to conduct relevant research and, as a result, more effectively improve human health.

In total, the DELTAS Africa scheme will award over £46 million (approximately $70 million US dollars) over an initial period of five years. The programmes are led from universities and research institutes in Ghana, Kenya, Mali, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. All the programmes involve collaboration across the continent, including between French-speaking and English-speaking countries, and with international research centres.

The DELTAS Africa awards give African institutions greater ownership of training scientists and researchers, often in countries where becoming a scientist is not a recognised career path. In addition, outstanding students who routinely leave the continent for their training will now have the opportunity to develop their careers within Africa.

The vision for DELTAS Africa is that early next year the awards will be managed by a new research initiative in Africa, AESA (Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa), which has been created by the African Academy of Sciences and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). AESA has been working in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and DFID.

The awards build on other Wellcome Trust activities to bring excellent research to Africa, for example the genomics programme H3 Africa, the African Institutions Initiative and the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programmes in Kenya, Malawi and South Africa.

Professor Abdoulayé Djimdé, Director of the PDNA said “The idea for the PDNA began in conversations among members of MalariaGEN at the Genomic Epidemiology of Malaria Conference in Hinxton, UK in 2012. From that nucleus, and with seed funding from the MRC Centre for Genomics and Global Health our African led network was established in 2013 and has gone from strength to strength. African scientists have a role to play in tackling malaria and as a network we will be able to further the science of genomic epidemiology in Africa, and help many young researchers to get state-of-the-art technical and analytical training in this challenging field."

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust said: “The Wellcome Trust has a long-established track record in investing in health research in sub-Saharan Africa. DELTAS Africa is a new approach and a long-term commitment, which has its centre of gravity and decision making firmly based in Africa. We welcome DFID's announcement today that it will provide additional funding to DELTAS. 

“The vision is to support the new generation of African research leaders. Individuals and teams from across the continent will play a leading role in shaping and driving world class, locally driven and relevant research that improves human health.”

The first awardees are:

Dr Gordon A Awandare for the WACCBIP-Wellcome Trust DELTAS Programme.
Institution: University of Ghana, Ghana. Award: £5.1 million.

Dr Dickson Chibanda for AMARI: African Mental Health Research Initiative.
Institution: University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe. Award: £4.1 million.

Professor Tobias F Chirwa for the Sub-Saharan Africa Advanced Training Programme for Leadership and Excellence in Biostatistics.
Institution: University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. Award: £3.5 million.

Professor Abdoulaye Djimdé for Developing Excellence in Leadership and Genetic Training for Malaria Elimination in Sub-Saharan Africa (DELGEME).
Institution: University of Science Techniques and Technologies of Bamako, Mali. Award: £5.2 million.

Professor Alison Elliott for the Makerere University UVRI Centre of Excellence for Infection & Immunity Research and Training (MUII-plus).
Institution: Uganda Virus Research Institute, Uganda. Award: £4.6 million.

Dr Samson M Kinyanjui for the Initiative to Develop African Research Leaders (IDeAL).
Institution: KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya. Award: £8 million.

Professor Thumbi Ndung'u for the Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV research Excellence.
Institution: K RITH, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Award: £7.3 million.

To read more about the DELTAS awards, visit the Wellcome Trust's news page.