Expanding Africa’s vaccine production capacity key – Noguchi Director

The Director-Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), University of Ghana, Professor Dorothy Yeboah-Manu, has emphasised the need for Africa to expand its local vaccine, diagnostics and therapeutics manufacturing capacity to be enabled in responding to pandemics and health crises.

Although the continent consumes 25 percent of the world’s vaccine production, it manufactures less than 1 percent of its healthcare system needs; diminishing its capacity to adequately respond to pandemics and health crises.

The continent also bears high rates of the global disease burden, but only few biomedical research and clinical trials originate from it.

Against this backdrop, she underscored the need for targetted skill and researcher development frameworks – with sustained support for doctoral and postdoctoral training that will contribute to bridging the gaps.

“The continent is home to about 18 percent of the world’s population, with 25 percent of the global disease burden, yet its researchers constitute just 1.1 percent of the global scientific research community,” she added.

Highlighting NMIMR’s pacesetting role, she said the Institute has been a leader and active stakeholder in several global health interventions – as exemplified during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – and assured its commitment to building capacity and skilled manpower across all levels of the academic ladder.

She indicated that more than 3,000 individuals, including 38 post-docs and 54 PhDs from different African countries, have been trained at the Institute since 2019; while 15 others from nine West-African countries have just completed the annual NMIMR-JICA cooperative 8-week laboratory skills training programme.

She made these observations while speaking at the 8th Annual Research Meeting (ARM) of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana.

This year’s ARM was on the theme Strengthening Research Capacity to Mitigate Current and Future Disease Threats: Bridging the Research-Policy Divide.

The event brought to light the NMIMR’s contributions to public health in Ghana, and showcased the work of young and upcoming researchers.

Vice Chancellor-University of Ghana, Professor. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, in a speech read on her behalf noted that as the world prepares for future pandemics and conducts research that will aid the rapid development of interventions, it is imperative for nations to build the required capacity in terms of human resources and relevant infrastructure to avoid being caught unawares again – as with the COVID-19 pandemic case.

While expressing delight to be part of the meeting, she noted that this year’s focus aligns with the university’s vision of building capacity.

“I am extremely delighted to be a part of ARM 2023. I will ensure that NMIMR gets the necessary support from the university – and especially from the government of Ghana – to sustain the good work that it has done over the years,” she added.

She also indicated that the Institute has established partnerships with international health bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), West African Health Organization (WAHO) and the Africa Centres for Disease control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to conduct research that is relevant to health promotion and delivery on the African continent, and to develop tools and systems for disease surveillance and diagnosis.

The NMIMR mandates are to conduct research into diseases of public health importance; provide specialized diagnostics support for global health interventions; and build the next generation of scientists’ capacity through post-graduate training and skills training for allied health professionals across the sub-region.