African Career Accelerator Awards
The Crick African Network’s African Career Accelerator (CAN ACA) awards have provided postdoctoral fellowships for African researchers who are aiming to make the transition to becoming an independent researcher and launching their own research group.
The awards invest in early-career researchers who have demonstrated strong scientific and leadership potential, as well as a commitment to continuing their research on the African continent. They are supported by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund.
Over the course of the two year programme, the fellows will divide their time between the Crick and one of the five African partner institutions:
Meet the fellows
Dr Sessinou Benoît Assogba
Benoît is based in Mike Blackman’s group at the Crick and the MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM. He’s also working with the Peptide Chemistry science technology platform and studying the molecular mechanisms and behaviour of mosquito reproduction and is hoping to develop new strategies for controlling the spread of malaria.
Dr Yaw Bediako
Yaw is splitting his time between Jean Langhorne's group at the Crick and the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens. He's comparing the immune responses of children in areas of high and low malaria transmission and this information could help to refine future malaria vaccines.
Dr Simon Kimuda
Simon will be based in Ben Schumann's group at the Crick and at MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit. He will be working to develop lab-based tools that can be used to predict how well TB vaccines work in Uganda. He is planning to study the immune response in children that are able to resist TB infection despite being exposed to the disease.
Dr Alassane Mbengue
Alassane will be dividing his time between Moritz Treeck's group at the Crick, WACCBIP and the Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal. He is working to develop new scientific tools to study the deadliest malaria parasite (P. falciparium) and study the reasons behind increasing drug resistance.
Dr Suraj Parihar
Suraj will be working in Max Gutierrez's group at the Crick and at the University of Cape Town. He is interested in how genes that respond to viral infections can also influence bacterial diseases like tuberculosis. He will be investigating a viral responsive gene in mice and using light microscopy to visualise how this influences TB infection.
Dr Peter Quashie
Peter is based at Jonathan Stoye's group at the Crick and WACCBIP, working on understanding the different strains of HIV circulating in West Africa, and examining how they are impacted by current treatment regimes. He hopes to eventually use this information to predict how the different strains of HIV react to treatments.
Dr Ursula Rohlwink
Ursula will be based in Robert Wilkinson's group at the Crick and the University of Cape Town. She studies brain injury and the markers that that are detectable in the brain and spinal cord as a result of TB (or tuberculosis) meningitis. She's hoping to find new insights which could eventually lead to new treatments for brain and spinal cord injuries.
Dr Sofonias Tessema
Sofonias is dividing his time between MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM and the Advanced Sequencing facility at the Crick. He's hoping to develop a next-generation sequencing based malaria surveillance method and create tools to provide detailed information on the genetic profiles of malaria parasites.
About the awards
Duration, location and funding
Fellowships are for a duration of up to two years, each with a value of up to £145,000.
The fellowships are undertaken in at least two locations including the Crick (UK) and, one of the five African partner institutions and optionally a third African institution.
Support and mentoring
Fellows are supported by two supervisors/advisors: one each from the Crick and the chosen African partner institution. They also had the option of support from one of the 14 Crick science technology platforms (STPs) which specialise in specific techniques and technologies.
In addition to conducting the proposed research programme, fellows participate in advanced training which provides the necessary skills to make the transition to becoming an independent research leader on the African continent.
To facilitate this, fellows are supported to submit a research grant proposal to major international funders in order to be able to continue their work after the end of the fellowship.
The scope of the research themes were defined as a biomedical study of infectious diseases of poverty, with an emphasis on tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS, but also extending to neglected tropical diseases or non-communicable diseases with an infection component.
CAN Fellows must have citizenship or have permanent residency status of one of the 55 African nations, as defined by the African Union. Applicants also had a PhD and no more than six years’ postdoctoral research experience.
The fellowships were designed to accelerate careers that had already shown great potential both scientifically and in leadership. These awards have identified individuals who will go on to make significant contributions to research as well as science and knowledge on the African continent.
The applications for African Career Accelerator awards were assessed by international peer review, followed by interviews.