Increasing Warwick’s impact in the world is one of the key themes of the Vision 2015 strategy. The aim is for the University to use its knowledge and expertise to transform the lives of many people across the world. As part of this effort, the University will play a leading role in a £3 million initiative to develop promising young medical scientists to take the lead in tackling Africa’s deadliest diseases, including HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.
The funding has come from a £30 million international consortium set up by the Wellcome Trust to strengthen research capacity in Africa. The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. Warwick is one of only a few UK universities involved, along with more than 50 institutions from 18 African countries.
Warwick Medical School is working closely with one of the lead institutions in this project, the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA). This partnership will aim to develop institutional capacity to support and conduct health-related research vital to enhancing people's health, lives and livelihoods.
One of the key Warwick academics involved, Professor Margaret Thorogood, said that ‘the CARTA partnership will provide a unique opportunity for staff and students at Warwick to work alongside African researchers and teachers and to contribute to a truly innovative plan which we hope will train a new generation of leaders of public health in Africa.’
Dr Alex Ezeh, Executive Director at the African Population and Health Research Centre in Kenya, is leading CARTA. He believes the initiative will be important to improving research in the region. ‘Notwithstanding the attention it has historically received, research capacity remains very weak in Africa,’ he says. ‘Indeed, existing research capacity strengthening programmes and collaborative partnerships in Africa are largely driven by northern academic and research institutions.’
‘The initiative represents a truly innovative mechanism to position African scholars and institutions as leaders in the collaborative efforts to rebuild research capacity in the region. It holds strong promise of creating a new class of highly-networked African scholars and institutions with the requisite skills to address the region's health challenges.’
Sustainable local research
The Wellcome Trust already funds major programmes in Kenya, Malawi and South Africa, as well as individual research projects across the continent. However, this new initiative has created consortia focused on building a critical mass of sustainable local research capacity across the continent. It aims to do this by strengthening its universities and research institutions and developing research networks.
‘The African continent faces some of the world's most serious health problems stemming from disease and poverty,’ according to Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. ‘If we are to tackle these problems, we need health research on the continent to develop in a vibrant research environment geared to national priorities. It is essential that the best and brightest researchers have access to training opportunities and career pathways in their home countries.’
‘There is no use training excellent researchers in Africa unless a first class environment is also available in which they can develop their careers and pursue their research. Outstanding researchers are also essential in African countries to provide leadership and to educate future generations of African students and scientists.’