UNESCO MARS 2017 Scientific & Steering Committee

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Rasha Kelej

Rasha Kelej
Chief Executive Officer, Merck Foundation

Chairperson of the Steering Committee

Rasha Kelej was born in February 1972 and has 22 years of experience in International Pharmaceutical Industry, she joined Merck in 1996 and served as a Chief Social Officer and Head of the Global Social Responsibility & Market Development, SVP of Merck Healthcare from 2013 until June 2017. Mrs. Kelej holds a degree in Pharmacy of Alexandria University and an MBA at Robert Gordon University, Scotland on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) integration with Business Strategy.

In this position, she defined a coherent and structured CSR agenda and led many impactful corporate responsibility initiatives that focused on building healthcare capacity and improving access to health in Africa and developing countries such as Merck Capacity Advancement program, Merck Cancer Access Program and Merck More Than A Mother.

Mrs. Kelej has successfully established strong partnerships with Governments, ministries of health and genders, academia and global non-for profits organizations which contributed significantly to the success of Merck Foundation’s programs.

About Merck Foundation
The Merck Foundation is a philanthropic organization that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to innovative healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM* with a special focus on women and youth.

* STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Merck Foundation has several initiatives:

  • Merck Capacity Advancement Program: By the end of 2016, more than 20,000 medical undergraduates and postgraduates in partnership with African and Asian universities benefited from European accredited clinical chronic diseases management training, seeking to equip them with skills to better manage and prevent these diseases.

    Merck is planning to target more than 25,000 students by the end of 2018 expanding to more African, Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries with special focus on non-communicable Diseases such as Hypertension, Cancer and Fertility management

    The program has also launched Merck Diabetes and hypertension Awards to help creating a platform of Diabetes and hypertension experts in Africa and Asia.
  • Merck Cancer Access Program:

    The Merck Cancer Access Program builds medical capacity, supports the implementation and development of specialized healthcare solutions and is augmented by community awareness campaigns to contribute to the reduction of cancer incidences and improve survival rates.

    It consists of three initiatives to enhance cancer care on all relevant levels:
    1. Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program focusses on building additional capacity by medical education and training.
    2. Merck more than a patient empowers female cancer survivors to reclaim their lives by reintegration into society.
    3. Merck Community Awareness shares accurate cancer information to help in tackling
  • Merck More Than a Mother Initiative: will not only provide medical education and awareness for medical students and general practitioners but will also support governments to define policies to improve access to safe and effective fertility care, address the need for interventions to reduce stigmatization and social suffering of infertile women and raise awareness about male infertility and the necessity for a team approach to family building among couples.

    Merck More Than a Mother Initiative addresses together with local stakeholders, the key challenges that are associated with resource-constrained settings such as prevention of infertility, education & self-development, assisted reproductive technology (ART) & in vitro fertilization (IVF) regulation, geographic barriers, reproductive rights and over-population and limited resources arguments.
  • UNESCO- Merck Africa Research Summit: The program has also kick off initiatives on building research capacity in Africa and prepare for the road ahead in Africa’s development as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation.

Vittorio Colizzi

Ahmed Fahmi
Program Specialist, Division of Science Policy and Capacity-Building UNESCO, Paris – France

After a peripatetic education in Africa, Asia, Italy and the UK, Ahmed Fahmi settled for a PhD on investigating the role of membrane proteins in controlling the electro-chemical behaviour of cardiac cells, which he obtained in 2000 from the University of Cambridge.

Thereafter he worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the Imperial College and Kings College of the University of London and the Max Planck Institute in Germany before landing a university post for teaching biochemistry at the University of London. Dr. Fahmi joined UNESCO in 2006 working in South Asia and the Asia-Pacific region on managing and coordinating the execution of the organization global programme in Basic and Engineering Sciences and Science Policy. He worked on a variety of projects, notably the development of a field guide manual on repair and retrofitting of historical building for earthquake engineers, e-learning programme in renewable energy, Teachers training program for Sri Lanka, policy formulation on the marine environment of the Maldives, the planning and execution of the reform of the Kingdom of Bhutan’s science and higher education system and the establishment of the UNESCO Regional Centre for Biotechnology in India. He was a visiting professor at the United Nations University in Japan in 2012, working on socio-economic theories of development. He was transferred to UNESCO Head Quarters in Paris in 2013 and has been involved in the establishment of UNESCO centres of excellence and in the reform of the biotechnology sector of Ethiopia.

He also leads the Global Observatory of Science Policy Instruments (GOSPIN) working on the review and formulation of STI policies in Africa. He has many peer-reviewed articles in his name.

Vittorio Colizzi

Ahmed Hamdy
Executive Secretary Scientific, Technical, and Research Commission African Union Commission

Dr. Ahmed HAMDY is an Egyptian born in Cairo in 1968. He is the Executive Secretary of the African Union, Scientific, Technical and Research Commission (AU/STRC); and former Head of Science &Technology and ICT Division of Department of Human Resources Science and Technology of the African Union Commission (AUC).

Dr. Hamdy has 24 years of national and international work experiences out of which 10 years are devoted fully to Science and Technology policy development. His main achievements in the field of Science policy were the development of the book of lighthouse projects; and Africa’s Regional Action Plan on the Knowledge Economy and its book of flagship projects. This resulted in successful projects and programs such as the African Union Research Grant; Connect Africa Research and Education; African Leadership Programme on ICT, African Internet Exchange Points; African Union Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Award; the African Network of Infectious Diseases Surveillance; African Scientific Research and Innovation Council; and the African Network of Sciences.

He had a significant contribution to other continental project and programs such as the establishment of the Pan African Intellectual Property Organization and the African Science Technology and Innovation Observatory. Most recently he was among the core contributors to the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA 2024) which is a continental strategy for next 10 year to shape and direct the continent on the STI landscape among others.

Vittorio Colizzi

Andrew Kambugu
Director of the Research Program at the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) Makerere University, College of Health Sciences (MakCHS), Uganda

Dr. Kambugu is the Director of the Research Program at the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS), and is an honorary Senior Lecturer in the Department of Medicine at MakCHS. He is also an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota (UMN), USA. He received his basic medical training as well as his residency in Internal Medicine at Makerere University in Uganda and undertook specialist training in Infectious Diseases in the USA and Canada. He has over 12 years of clinical experience in HIV medicine and is a member of 2 National HIV Subcommittees (Adult Antiretroviral Therapy and HIV Drug Resistance) of the Ugandan Ministry of Health. He directed the HIV Clinic at the IDI for seven years. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP), London, UK.

Dr. Kambugu’ s research interests include HIV treatment outcomes in resource limited settings, as well as the diagnosis and management of opportunistic infections in these settings with a focus on cryptococcal meningitis and tuberculosis. He has accrued considerable experience in assembling clinical cohorts as well as conducting fairly large clinical trials in Uganda.

He is a principal investigator on a number of clinical trials spanning the fields of HIV therapeutics, HIV treatment strategies and implementation science in Uganda.

Vittorio Colizzi

Elijah Songok
Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases College of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg Canada & Principal Research Scientist Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya

Prof. Elijah M. Songok, is a Principal Research Scientist at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Nairobi. He also holds the position of Assistant Professor at the Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Manitoba Canada and is similarly cross appointed as a professor at the Department of Virology and International Health, Kanazawa University, Japan.

Prof. Songok holds a BSc and MSc in Biochemistry from the University of Nairobi, a PhD in Virology from Kanazawa University Japan, and a post doctorate in genomics from University of Manitoba. He has published more than forty articles in peer reviewed journals, most as a first or corresponding author, and has supervised more than 8 students for the PhD degrees and 14 for their MScs. He has two patents and one innovation currently undergoing clinical trials. On grants, Prof Songok has won more than twenty research grants and awards as principal investigator from diverse grant making organizations as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK), Canada Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), USAID, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Third World Academy of Sciences, Canada International Development Research Centre (IDRC) among others.

Vittorio Colizzi

Vittorio Colizzi
Professor of Immunology, Director UNESCO Chair of Biotechnology, University of Rome

Born in Rome on December 7, 1949, Dr Colizzi received the medical degree at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” with full honour. Dr Colizzi is a specialist in Clinical of Infectious Diseases (University of Rome) and in Hygiene and Public Health (University of Pisa), and PhD in Immunology (Brunnel University, England).

His doctorate and post-doc experience have been carried out at the Clinical Research Centre in Harrow (England). He has been Assistant in Microbiology, and Associate professor in Immunology at the University of Pisa. Since 2000 to now, Dr Colizzi is Full Professor of Immunology and Director of the UNESCO Chair in Biotechnology at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. Dr Colizzi has been also President (2007-2010) of the Board of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases “Lazzaro Spallanzani” in Rome, Italy.

He is a consultant for several agencies of the United Nations (UNESCO, UNDP, OMS) and is the scientific coordinator of several European and International Projects. Dr Colizzi has been Scientific Director and member of the Board of the International Reference Centre for AIDS “Chantal Biya” in Yaoundé, Cameroon and President of the University Spinoff Eurobiopark (European Group of Biotechnology at the Tor Vergata Science Park).

Actually, Dr Colizzi is the coordinator of the European Project STARBIOS2 (Structural Transformation to Attain Responsible BIoSciences). VC published over 300 scientific publications on peer-review journals (Nature, Journal of Immunology, Infection and Immunity, Journal of Infectious Diseases, Immunology, Clinical Experimental Immunology, A, IDS, AIDS and Human Retrovirus Journal, etc.) in the sector of Microbial Immunology and Infectious Diseases, with special focus on AIDS and Tuberculosis.

Vittorio Colizzi

Dr. Pauline Essah
Manager of the Cambridge-Africa Programme, University of Cambridge Cambridge, UK

Dr Pauline Essah is appointed by the University of Cambridge as Manager of the Cambridge-Africa Programme (http://www.cambridge-africacam.ac.uk/) which is a key strand of its official international strategy.

Originally from Ghana in West Africa, Dr Essah obtained a first class honours degree in Agriculture at the University of Ghana, Legon. She then moved to the University of Cambridge to study for MPhil and PhD degrees in biological sciences. This was followed by three and a half years of post-doctoral research at the Department of Plant Sciences in Cambridge. In 2009, Dr Essah joined the Cambridge-Africa Programme as its first Coordinator (for the THRiVE initiative).

Dr Essah has been instrumental in growing THRiVE into the unique, coordinated, multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary umbrella Cambridge-Africa Programme (which now incorporates initiatives such as THRiVE, MUII and CAPREx, the ALBORADA Research Fund, and the Wellcome Trust-Cambridge Centre for Global Health Research) that she now manages at the University of Cambridge.