UNESCO and MeRCK celebrate outstanding African Women Researchers for the First Time

Merck in partnership with UNESCO, African Union and Ethiopia Ministry of Health, announced five winners from Kenya, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Uganda and Ethiopia under the category of 'Best African Women Researchers Award' and four winners from Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia and Zimbabwe Best Young African Researchers Award' during the recently held 2nd UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This was the first time the 'Best African Women Researchers Award' was being launched.

The awardees who are final PhD students and young investigators based at African research institutes and universities were selected based on the abstracts they submitted which were impressive and related to Infectious Diseases with the aim to improve Women Health, which was the focus of UNESCO-MARS 2016.

UNESCO-MARS 2016 Award winners: left to right front row- 'Best African Woman Researchers Award' 4th place winner Maria Nabaggala, from Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda; 5th place winner, Martha Zewdie, from Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia; 2nd place Best Young African Researchers winner, Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care; Best Young African Researchers 1st place winner Patricia Rantshabeng from University of Botswana; Best African Women Researchers 2nd place winner, Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso; 'Best Young Researcher Award' 3rd place winner, Lamin Cham from National Aids Control Program, Gambia; 2nd row: 2nd place Best Young Researchers Award winner, Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe; Best African Woman Researchers Award' 1st place winner, Beatrice Nyagol from Kenya Medical Research Institute, together with Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Prof. Dr Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman, Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG; Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO and Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare

Prof. Dr Frank Stangenberg- Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG congratulated the winners. He said: "Merck will work together with UNESCO to empower women and also young researchers which raises the level of scientific research in Africa and encourages them to pursue their dreams, work for improving access to health solutions and make a difference in the continent. Moreover, I am very pleased to offer my support to motivate female researchers and healthcare providers and recognize their excellent contribution to fields where they are underrepresented."

In her introductory remarks, Dr Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare highlighted: "This is the second UNESCO-MARS we are holding after the successful one held in Geneva, Switzerland in 2015. Merck is committed to empowering women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) which will consequently contribute to improving the quality of research and science in Africa."

"Merck's support for Women in research where they are currently under-represented will help bridge the gender gap in STEM in Africa. The five Best Women Researchers awardees from Kenya, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Uganda and Ethiopia were selected by the MARS Scientific Committee based on their high quality contribution to research in their respective fields of health sciences," Kelej explained.

'Best African Women Researchers Award'

The 'Best African Women Researchers Awards' with the aim of promoting women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) went to five women researchers from across Africa, who were recognized for the quality of their research.

Kenya
Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya Medical Research Institute

Awarded the 1st 'Best African Women Researchers Award' for her study on: "Clinicians' experiences and insights in conducting an intra-vaginal ring study among young women in Kisumu, Kenya, 2015 -Lessons learned"

"I am excited about winning the Merck 1st Best African Women Researchers Award and for them recognizing the effort that young researchers and scientists like us contribute towards research in Africa. It is a commendable step that Merck has taken to recognize young women doing research in Africa and the award will accelerate scientific research in Africa and more women will seek opportunities to be involved in research in Africa."

Burkina Faso
Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Ouagadougou

Awarded 2nd 'Best African Women Researchers Award' for her study on: "Molecular diagnosis of cytomegalovirus (CMV), the human herpes virus type 6 (HHV6) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) by real-time PCR in pregnant women infected or not infected by HIV at Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso"

"I am very happy to win the second award, this will encourage me to excel in my research to help the population in Burkina Fuse to access better healthcare solutions and will motivate other women researchers in my country"

Gabon
Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua Ecole Doctorale Regionale d'Afrique Centrale, Franceville

Awarded (in absentia and received on her behalf) 3rd 'Best African Women Researchers Award' for her study on: "Pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in children with malaria in Franceville, Gabon"

Uganda
Maria Nabaggala, Infectious Diseases Institute

Awarded 4th 'Best African Women Researchers Award' for her study on: "Understanding outcomes of HIV positive patient tracking following a missed appointment in rural Uganda"

"I am overjoyed at winning the 4th 'Best African Women Researchers Award'. It is like a dream come true. I have worked on a number of projects and at last now I have a breakthrough. It seems like I have been reborn as a researcher as other opportunities are possible now. I now know what it feels like to be rewarded for success. The award has given me a stage to showcase my work."

Ethiopia
Martha Zewdie, Armauer Hansen Research Institute

Awarded 5th 'Best African Women Researchers Award' for her study on: "Ex-vivo characterization of regulatory T-cells in pulmonary tuberculosis patients, latently infected persons, and healthy endemic controls"

"I am very happy to be a recipient of the UNESCO-MARS 'Best African Women Researchers Award'. It's exciting to have this recognition for the work I have done in the past five years. The UNESCO-Merck Best African Women Researcher Award will encourage other young women researchers in Africa to work harder and to take the path of science as a career of choice."

"Best Young African Researchers Award"

The three categories of the 'Best Young Researchers Award' were given to two female and two male researchers Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia and Zimbabwe.

Botswana
Patricia Rantshabeng, University of Botswana

Awarded 1st place 'Best Young African Researchers Award' for her study on: "Prevalence of oncogenic Human Papillomavirus genotypes in women with vulvar and cervical squamous cell carcinoma in Botswana"

"I am excited at winning the Merck Best Young African Researchers Award. It is nice to be appreciated when you do good work for the benefit of your people and the world at large. This has shown me that the current research that I am focusing on is of utmost importance and we must continue working on that to bring solutions to problems that we are facing in our different nations."

Cameroon
Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care

-Awarded 2nd place 'Best Young African Researchers Award' for his study on: "The experiences of women living with trachoma in Africa: A qualitative systematic review"

"I feel very honoured and motivated for winning the Merck Best Young Researchers Award. This Summit will benefit me in my career in the sense that the award I have received will be a recognition back home that will encourage me to develop and build capacities for young researchers in our centre."

Zimbabwe
Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe

Awarded 3rd place 'Best Young African Researchers Award' for his study on: "Cryptococcus neoformans population diversity is not associated with clinical outcomes of HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis patients in Zimbabwe"

"I feel honoured and excited to have won the Best Young Researchers Award. The UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit is the best I have attended as I have managed to collaborate with other researchers from Africa including people who are doing the same work as me. It is a good opportunity for African researchers to network and collaborate and establish long lasting relationships."

Gambia
Lamin Cham, from National Aids Control Program

Awarded 3rd place 'Best Young African Researchers Award' for his study on: 'Qualitative detection of proviral-DNA of HIV-1 in neonates to determine the efficacy of antiretroviral therapy in the prevention of vertical transmission of HIV-1 in the Gambia'

"I am grateful to have been selected as one of the Merck Best Young Researchers Award winner at UNESCO-MARS 2016. This Summit has improved my expertise in research as they have invited young researchers who are able to explore. I will be able to help my fellow young Gambian researchers back home."

About 2016 MARS award winners

"Best African Woman Researcher Award"

  • 1st Place: Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya
  • 2nd Place: Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso
  • 3rd Place: Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua, Ecole Doctorale Regionale d'Afrique Centrale, Franceville, Gabon
  • 4th Place: Maria Nabaggala, Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda
  • 5th Place:Martha Zewdie, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia

"Best Young African Researcher Award"

  • 1st Place: Patricia Rantshabeng, University of Botswana, Botswana
  • 2nd Place: Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care
  • 3rd Place: Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe and Lamin Cham, National Aids Control Program, Gambia

Join the conversation on building research capacity in Africa through UNESCO-MARS at:

Facebook page Merck Africa Research Summit

Twitter handle: @Merck_MARS

YouTube Channel Merck Africa Research Summit

For more information on the UNESCO-MARS 2016 Summit go to:

www.unesco-mars.com and www.merck-cap.com

 http://en.unesco.org/events/2nd-edition-unesco-merck-africa-research-summit-unesco-mars