Personality Profile – Dr. Emmanuel Tumininu Obishakin

Dr. Emmanuel Obishakin graduated as a Veterinarian from the Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria. In 2006, while working at the Biotechnology Division of the National Veterinary Research institute, Nigeria, the country recorded its first outbreak of Avian Influenza. A quest to accurately identify the outbreak strain and institute appropriate interventions furthered his interest in Molecular Biology. He obtained a MSc. in Molecular Biology from the Katholieke University, Leuven and PhD in Bioengineering at the Cellular and Molecular Immunology department (studying Trypanosome model) from Vrije University Brussel, both in Belgium. He is currently a Chief Veterinary Research Officer at the Biotechnology division of the National Veterinary Research institute in Nigeria.

Among a number of factors inimical to winning the combat against NTDs, he considers the lack of requisite knowledge about NTDs and their prevention methods among many health workers and patients to be quite central. Coupled with the remote location of many communities affected by NTDs, which makes it challenging for them to be reached, access to health care is not certain or assured. Consequently, these diseases spread without interventions. Dr. Obishakin therefore advocates for prioritizing urban and rural campaigns that focus on NTDs and their prevention strategies.

Dr. Obishakin believes the long running problem of insufficient funding for NTD research continues to be a major drawback to institutions like his in the fight against NTDs. He has thus lauded the efforts being made by a number of companies who donate materials to research laboratories to augment their work. With more of such partnerships and contributions, he is hopeful that NTD researchers can scale up their efforts to achieve significant impact in control and eradication programs.

Seizing an opportunity which was posted on the ARNTD website, he applied and was nominated to attend the ImmunoGambia training at the Medical Research Council in The Gambia in 2016. His stellar performance at the conference led to his appointment as one of the Immunopeadia Ambassadors. In this role, he is expected to help promote the knowledge and research in immunology worldwide. He hopes that such an initiative can evolve into organizing an Immunopedia Conference focused on NTDs.

In Dr. Obishakin’s view, the phenomenon of experts in scientific fields leaving their careers to pursue political ambitions or getting absorbed in administrative positions leaves many upcoming scientists with inadequate mentorship opportunities. It is against this background that he lauds the initiative of the ARNTD to institute the internal Small Grants Program, which has dedicated slots for mentees, to stimulate research and build capacity in Africa.

Emmanuel is married to Felicia Obishakin, a Virologist with the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria. They have two sons and a daughter. He loves to play the piano, drums and the saxophone.

Three Scientists Awarded Maiden ARNTD Internal Small Grants

Three scientists have emerged as winners in the first African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD) internal Small Grants Program (iSGP). The awardees, comprising one ARNTD member and two mentees, were selected from applicants coming from East, West, Central and Southern Africa following a rigorous review process.

With one of the ARNTD’s strategic objectives being “to stimulate research and strengthen the capacity required in Africa”, the Network’s Management Board dedicated an amount of EUR 20,000 to the iSGP from funds donated by the foundations which supported the initial set-up of the ARNTD. The three iSGP projects to be funded cover the diseases lymphatic filariasis, leishmaniasis and acute gastroenteritis.

This inaugural iSGP augments the current Small Grants Program (ARNTD-SGP) which the Network runs with support from the Coalition for Operational Research on NTDs (COR-NTD) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). SGP is open to non-ARNTD members, but funding is limited to the preventive-chemotherapy NTDs.

Grants schemes like the iSGP offer Africa-focused scientists the opportunity to expand their current research capacities and that of their research team members.

ARNTD-iSGP Awardees

Dr. Alexander Kwarteng   

Mentee

Lecturer, KNUST/Post-doc Fellow, KCCR

Ghana

The frequency of filarial attacks among lymphedema patients: A focus on leg stage, adherence to foot-care hygiene, and the impact of seasonal variations

Dr. Kingsley Badu

Member

Lecturer, KNUST

Ghana

 

Validation of diagnostic biomarkers for incriminating vectors of cutaneous leishmaniasis and to quantify their transmission intensity in Ghana

 

Dr. Amy Strydom

Mentee

Post-doc Fellow, Univ. of the Free Sate,

South Africa

 

Adapting a NGS pipeline to determine whole genome sequences of wild type rotavirus isolated from animal stool samples

The ARNTD is the only Africa-based network spear-headed by Africans that embraces research and advocacy on all diseases of poverty. The Network’s membership is spread across 30 countries and involves individuals from a variety of disciplines across health, social, and management sciences, including policymakers. The ARNTD Secretariat is hosted by the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana.

 

KEMRI Holds 11th Annual NTD Conference

The 11th Annual Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Conference held in Nairobi on December 6 and 7, 2017, brought together over 140 health professionals, including researchers, policy makers, implementers and other stakeholders from Africa, North America and Asia, to discuss current health challenges, review progress, exchange new knowledge and chart the way forward in the research and control of NTDs in Kenya and the African region as a whole. The conference is jointly organized by the Kenyan Ministry of Health’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Control Program and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) with support from CBM International, LSTM, WHO, The Fred Hollows Foundation and Evidence Action, and the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD). The Conference was co-chaired by Dr. Sultani Matendechero (Head of NTD Program, MoH), Dr. Maurice Odiere (Head of NTD Unit at KEMRI’s Centre for Global Health Research) and Dr. Doris Njomo (KEMRI ESACIPAC) who are all members of ARNTD.

Dr. John Amuasi (ED, ARNTD) giving a keynote address

The theme for this year’s conference was Partnership towards achievement of the global goals for control, elimination and eradication of Neglected Tropical Diseases”. Sub-themes that were deliberated upon included: Preventive Chemotherapy & Transmission Control, Innovative and Intensified Disease Management, Vector Ecology and Management, Neglected Zoonotic Diseases, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. The conference received over 70 abstracts from a wide disease profile, including but not limited to Leishmaniasis, Lymphatic filariasis, Trachoma, Soil-transmitted helminthiasis, Podoconiosis, Guinea worm, Echinostomosis, Leprosy, Snake bite, Schistosomiasis, Rabies, West Nile Virus, Echinococcosis, Dengue virus, Fascioliasis and Tungiasis (jiggers).

The plenary covered six (6) key scientific sessions (Basic Sciences, Epidemiology and Public Health, Operational Research & Control Programs, Health Behavioral Studies and Social Sciences, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) and Zoonosis/One Health) with a variety of oral and poster presentations, as well as a wide display of exhibitions from partners and sponsors. Keynote speakers included Prof. Eric Fevre, a Professor of Veterinary Infectious Diseases at the Institute of Infection and Global Health (IGH), University of Liverpool and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi; Prof. Thumbi Mwangi (KEMRI-Washington State University), Dr. Ruth Chunge (Co-Director, Centre for Tropical and Travel Medicine), Dr. John Amuasi (Executive Director, African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD), Dr. Robert Harisson (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine) and Mr. Alex Mwaki (Country Director, SWAP Kenya).

Over the years, the conference has set a tradition of honoring the conference presenters in various categories. Researchers whose contributions were recognized and awarded at this year’s event included: Dr. Getrude Nasike (Best oral presentation) from Lodwar County and Referral Hospital, Kenya, for her presentation on ‘Characteristics of Visceral leishmaniasis patients attending Namouruputh dispensary Jan 2015 – Sep 2017’; Akbar Ganatra (Best Poster presentation) from ICIPE for his poster titled ‘A risk factor study for the prediction of the distribution of Schistosoma host snails in freshwater habitats in western Kenya’ and Edna Ondari (Best Young Scientist) from Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, Singapore and Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Switzerland for her presentation on ‘Immunopotentiation of the host innate response against dengue virus by a nucleoside analogue inhibitor’.

Small Grants, Big Impact: Audio Interview with John Amuasi, ARNTD Executive Director

In this interview, Dr. John Amuasi, MBChB, MPH, MS, PhD discusses the impetus and hopes for the African Researchers’ Small Grants Program – an effort supported by the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (COR-NTD).

As ARNTD’s Executive Director, Dr. Amuasi led the charge for the creation of the new funding program, which supported the work of six early and mid-career researchers based in Africa to tackle barriers to the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, in their home countries. The selected researchers are based in Cameroon, Nigeria, Tanzania and Togo, and their work focuses on all five of the NTDs addressed by preventive chemotherapy, or PC-NTDs.

This interview took place on November 4, at the fifth annual COR-NTD Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

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