The Crick African Network has awarded its final postdoctoral fellowships to two outstanding African scientists, bringing the total number of African Career Accelerator award recipients in this cohort to 18.
African Career Accelerator fellows spend two years carrying out research and training at both the Crick and one of our African partner institutions: the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit; MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM (representing the West African Global Health Alliance); Stellenbosch University; the University of Cape Town; and the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) at the University of Ghana. The fellowships are designed to prepare the recipients to establish their own research groups on the African continent.
Robert J. Wilkinson leads both the Tuberculosis Laboratory at the Crick and the Crick African Network. "It is very gratifying to have identified the final group of Crick African Fellows, through rigorous competition," says Robert. "Now it’s time for science."
Dr Caroline Beltran is a postdoctoral researcher at Stellenbosch University and studies the characteristics of tuberculosis (TB) in its dormant state. When the disease is dormant, it ‘hides’ from the body’s immune system in lesions on organs called granulomas.
During her fellowship, Caroline will be working with Max Gutierrez’s group and the light microscopy team at the Crick to image granulomas and visualise the dormant TB. By seeing how the bacteria move within the granulomas, she hopes to build new models of TB which can be used to test new drugs and vaccines in the future.
“It is an absolute honour to be awarded this fellowship,” says Caroline. “I’m excited about being immersed in an environment where some of the top scientists in the world are conducting research.
“The Crick houses the latest technology platforms headed by expert scientists and I’m looking forward to growing my skills and conducting high impact science. The ethos of multi-disciplinary collaboration and exchange is something I want to bring back and cultivate in South Africa.”
Dr Isaac Darko Otchere studies the genetic differences between the TB strains present in Ghana and will be based in Luiz Carvalho’s group at the Crick and with Dorothy Yeboah-Manu at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, who is part of the WACCBIP faculty at the University of Ghana.
Isaac’s research during his fellowship will focus on how differences between tuberculosis strains affect how the disease is transmitted, how it survives in the body, and how it responds to drug treatment.
“The expertise and resources of Luiz Carvalho’s lab at the Crick are exactly what I need for the next phase of my career as I become an independent group leader,” explains Isaac. “I selected WACCBIP as my partner institution as it is an international centre of excellence for TB research, and the postgraduate programme will give me the opportunity to gain teaching experience while training future West African scientists.
“Biomedical research cannot be a standalone entity. It needs the continuous flow of resources, sharing of findings, engaging the public and making use of the findings to improve lives.”