Announcing the 2020 Africa-India Mobility Fund Awardees
The Africa India Mobility Fund (AIMF) was set up by the DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance (India Alliance) and the African Academy of Sciences’ (AAS) in 2018 to foster south-south research collaborations and learning between the two ecosystems.
AIMF was set up in recognition of the fact that Africa and India face similar challenges, both in the diseases that affect their populations and socio-political issues as well as the leadership required to address these. AIMF catalyzes exchanges expected to enhance the skills of Indian and African researchers and contribute to the growth of knowledge and leadership towards common health challenges. So far, 8 African and Indian researchers have been supported through this Fund. Find their details here.
AIMF supports African and Indian researchers to conduct visits of three months in either direction. Funding supports collaboration in research in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, dengue, malaria, vector-borne diseases, parasitic infections, emerging infections, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, health systems research, antimicrobial resistance, microbiome, drug development and general biomedical sciences.
The grantees funded in the second round of funding for the AIMF are:
Angeline Jeyakumar, Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), Maharashtra, India
Host institution in Africa: University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Angeline specializes in Public Health Nutrition. She currently serves as an Assistant Professor at School of Health Sciences, SPPU, where she has been since 2000. She coordinates post graduate courses in public health nutrition for health sciences and master's in public health (MPH) students. She is trained in applied epidemiology at Emory University, by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, USA. Her research interests include maternal and child health, leading to studies in iron and vitamin D deficiencies among women of reproductive age. In the tribal regions of Palghar, Maharashtra, with DBT funding, she performed a randomised community trial to assess the effect of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) interventions to prevent diarrhoea and undernutrition among children.
Project: Comparison of nutrition transition in regions at different levels of urbanization in Maharashtra (India) and Johannesburg (South Africa): Africa and India share common public health issues such as undernutrition among children, poverty, widespread infections, rapid urbanization and increasing non-communicable diseases. In India, economic growth has contributed to meagre reduction in poverty, widening the gap between economic classes. Similar is the inequality in Africa which has not changed in the past two decades. With the AIMF grant, Angeline will study dietary patterns and double burden of malnutrition in both countries at different levels of urbanization along with Dr. Hema Kesa, Director of Food Evolution Research Laboratory, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Dr Kesa studies transition from indigenous foods.
Rashmi Rodrigues, St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bengaluru, India
Host institution in Africa: Makerere University Lung Institute, Uganda
Rashmi Rodrigues is an Associate Professor in Community Medicine at St John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore and is an affiliated Researcher at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. Her research focuses on developing mobile technologies to support adherence to treatment in people living with HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB). For this she has developed a mobile application – v.Cure, via which patients with TB video record themselves consuming their medications. The video is sent to the healthcare provider who provides the patient with feedback regarding their adherence to treatment. Rashmi is a mentor in USAIDs Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER), Women in Science, mentoring program cohort of 2020, which focuses on TB. Her research interests include developing health systems for improving outcomes in infectious diseases, including outcomes in populations that are underserved and hard to reach.
Project: Contextualising mobile phone applications for treatment support to Africa - Adherence and retention in care of patients with drug-resistant TB: The proposed work under AIMF involves developing a sustainable collaboration with Makerere University Lung Institute, Kampala, Uganda through her collaborator Dr. Winceslaus Katagira. Rashmi during her visit to Uganda will explore patient perceptions regarding the use of mobile technology for monitoring treatment adherence in patients with drug resistant TB and their healthcare providers. The work will provide guide modifications to the existing v.Cure mobile application that she has developed (currently used to monitor patients with TB in India using mobile video technology) for implementation in Uganda. The modifications to the v.Cure application will be contextually relevant to Uganda and will be supplemented by Dr. Katagira’s visit to St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore, India. The collaboration will also enable transfer of knowledge, skill and technology between the two institutions involved in the collaboration.
Katagira Winceslaus, Makerere University Lung Institute, Uganda
Host institution in India: St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bengaluru, India
Katagira Winceslaus is a Physician who completed his Masters degree in Internal Medicine in 2015 and has been working in the field of pulmonary medicine. Prior to his Masters, Katagira was actively engaged in TB related research, a field he continues to work in today. He is based at the Makerere University Lung Institute (MLI) in Kampala, Uganda where he is engaged in several research projects as a research fellow but also manages patients attending the Lung Institute clinic. He is a senior trial physician on the STREAM stage 2 Multi-Drug Resistant YB (MDR-TB) trial and is co-investigating on two post-TB related research projects at the MLI.
Project: Contextualising mobile phone applications for treatment support to Africa: Adherence and retention in care of patients with drug resistant TB: Although Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) remains the standard of care for patients with MDR-TB, it is labour intensive for health facilities, inconveniencing to patients and has been associated with stigma. Katagira’s project will pilot smart phone-based video observed therapy (VOT) to explore the feasibility and acceptability of integrating VOT for MDR in program settings in Uganda.
Dr Mutiu Idowu Kazeem, Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, Nigeria
Host institution in India: India Institute of Technology, Madras, Chennai, India
Mutiu Idowu Kazeem holds a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria. He is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry, Lagos State University, Lagos, Nigeria. His research interests include drug discovery, phytomedicine and functional foods, with special attention on diabetes mellitus and ageing. The main thrust of his research is the search for safer, more effective, and affordable drugs from natural sources – medicinal plants, foods, and aquatic organisms. This is due to the undesirable side effects and sometimes resistance to the present synthetic drugs. He has published over forty (40) articles in reputable journals and serves as reviewer for many peer-reviewed ones. He is a member of the Nigerian Young Academy (NYA), affiliate of African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and Fellow of Africa Science Leadership Programme (ASLP).
Project: Potential discovery of novel antidiabetic agents from some African medicinal plants: Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterized by alterations in carbohydrate, fats and protein metabolism that results from defects in insulin secretion and/or insulin action. The number of people suffering from the disease worldwide is increasing at an alarming rate with a projected 628.6 million people likely to be diabetic by the year 2045 as against 424.9 million estimated in 2017. The management of diabetes mellitus is considered a global problem and successful treatment is yet to be discovered. The underlying goal of all diabetes management is to maintain an adequate blood glucose concentration. The main approach used in the management of diabetes is oral hypoglycemic drugs such as biguanides (metformin), sulfonylureas (glimepiride), and α-glucosidase inhibitors (acarbose). However, these drugs have been shown to have undesirable side effects and high secondary failure rates. In addition, these drugs cannot be afforded by majority of people living in rural communities of developing countries because of their high cost. These limitations of currently available antidiabetic agents have prompted researchers all over the world to investigate alternative antidiabetic remedies. Many medicinal plants and foods have been studied for their possible hypoglycemic potential using both in-vitro and in-vivo models. However, there is dearth of information on the isolation of bioactive compounds responsible for their antidiabetic properties as well as mechanisms of their antidiabetic action. The aim of this project is to isolate the bioactive compounds responsible for the antidiabetic properties of some African medicinal plants and determine the biochemical mechanism(s) underlying their antidiabetic activities.
Dr Nadia Touil, Royal School of Military Health Service, Rabat, Morocco
Host institution in India: Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh
Nadia Touil is a full Professor at Royal School of Military Health Service, Rabat, Morocco and working in the Laboratorie de Recherche & Biosécurité at the Teaching Military Hospital of Rabat (HMIMedV, Rabat). She graduated from the College of Science (Animal Biology) from Mohammed I, University in Oujda in 1994. She completed her PhD in Sciences (Cell Genetics) from the Vrije Universiteit of Brussels, Brussels (Belgium) in 2002. She worked as a researcher at the Department of Immunology at the HMIMedV (Hôpital Militaire d'Instruction Med V de Rabat) from 2003-2008. From 2009-2014, she worked at the Biopharma company for Biological and Veterinary pharmaceuticals production. Her main task was to develop Group A Rotavirus vaccine. In 2014, she specialized for the diagnosis and interspecies transmission of Enteric Viruses. In 2017, she started working on the development of a recombinant RVA protein and works with the team of Dr YS Malik from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, India.
Project: Recombinant group A Rotavirus VP6 (rVP6) as an attractive protein subunit vaccine against RVA disease for young children and ruminants in Morocco: To improve the control of group A rotavirus (RVA) infection and disease in children in Morocco, Rotarix and Rotateq live attenuated vaccines were introduced into the National Immunization Programme (NIP) in 2010 and 2014 respectively. The former vaccine has been associated with reduction of almost 50% of RVA hospitalization while, four years after its introduction, some vaccinated children were found to be severely affected with acute gastroenteritis (AGE). Unusual P  serotypes in their feces were detected and showed similarities to RVA excreted from bovine and small ruminants with AGE. In our context where many children and adults are living in close relationship with ruminants, P  RVA should be common. We are currently working on the development of an attractive recombinant protein targeting all RVA (from human and ruminants) using the BacMam viruses. Our partnership with the Indian Veterinary Research Institute at Uttar Pradesh lead us to advance the production of the rVP6 protein.