The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) at the University of Ghana, Legon, has organised a 2-day Annual Research Meeting (ARM) from November 17-18, 2022 under the theme ‘Epidemics, Pandemics and Diseases of Public Health Importance: Bridging the Research-Policy Divide’.
Speaking at the Institute’s seventh Annual Research Meeting’s opening ceremony, Prof. Dorothy Yeboah-Manu, Director-Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, stated that the NMIMR has been at the forefront of tackling epidemics/pandemics and local outbreaks. Notable examples are the West African Ebola virus disease outbreak in 2014, the H1N1 influenza outbreaks in 2009 and 2017, and the H5N1 outbreak in 2018.
The swift response to the national call for rapid detection of the recent Marburg outbreak led to the institution of appropriate interventions, dampening an otherwise disastrous event. The Institute also confirmed the first case of monkeypox in Ghana during July this year, and has been involved in the surveillance of other diseases across the country.
Prof. Yeboah-Manu indicated that this year’s Annual Research Meeting aims at providing a forum to present findings from our cutting-edge research while stimulating intellectual exchanges among researchers, health practitioners, policymakers and the public on their national health policy implications.
She further explained that the meeting, among other things, will bring together researchers from within and outside Ghana to share evidence-based data which may clear the path for great collaborations – adding that: “As a believer in south-south partnerships, this meeting offers an opportunity for us all to establish new collaborations which may last for several years. I also cannot forget our northern partners, some of whom have been with us for as long as I have been at this Institute.
“One of the things this meeting is bringing forth this year is providing a platform to also discuss non-communicable diseases like hypertension, cancer and diabetes, to which we do not usually pay enough attention. In the midst of all these problems, what Noguchi – the leading biomedical research institute in-country – is doing lies in the area of drug discovery,” Prof. Yeboah-Manu said.
Adding her voice, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah, Vice-Chancellor – University of Ghana, indicated that communicating scientific outputs for the lay audience to understand is essential. “Training researchers to learn how to effectively communicate research findings and work to lay audiences is what will enable better understanding of the science we practice. Community members are principal in the process of research, and it is for this reason scientists must deem them as key players in the whole process of research,” Prof. Appiah Amfo stated.
Prof. Appiah Amfo stated that researchers around the world have been working hard to develop control measures against health threats. “In Ghana, one of the flagship research institutes of the University of Ghana – the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research – has been at the forefront of research into both communicable and non-communicable diseases, surveillance and specialised diagnosis of most of these health threats. The Institute has been a vanguard of biomedical and health research in Ghana, and has over the years made significant impacts in health policy and practice,” she added.
Dr. Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, Presidential Coordinator – COVID-19 Response Programme, delivering his keynote address stated that the divide between research and policy provides a need for researchers to deepen their understanding of the policymaking process; adding that, “As researchers, we tend to have a very simplified view of how policy is made. We tend to see how the policy is made in a very lineal, logical manner as factors come up. You consider the problems and policy options, then you choose the best. And in that process, research plays an important role”.
Prof. John Gyapong, delivering his keynote address on NTD research landscape and challenges with elimination, explained that Neglected Tropical Diseases research is not prioristised in limited resource countries. Limited capacity to attract and effectively execute cutting-edge research in many resource limited settings is plagued by NTDs.
“A chunk of research grant awards for global disease burdens, including NTDs, occur in the global north relative to the global south – which suffers the brunt of these diseases. As we speak now, the World Health Assembly has developed a roadmap for the elimination and control of NTDs. For good reasons, they decided to focus on twenty of these diseases which affect populations living in poverty and are in close contact with infectious diseases,” Prof. Gyapong stated.
Yasuaki Momita, representative-Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), indicated that JICA and the Institute have longstanding history of collaborations through technical cooperation and grant aid projects; such as establishment of the Institute; construction of the Advanced Research Laboratories; and the new technical cooperation project to improve safety and quality management systems at the Institute.
“With the overall aim of improving QMS, a Quality Management System, the Institute will meet international standards. As one of the Institute’s core mandates to research into diseases of public health importance, JICA through its precaution pair – enhancing infectious disease research and an alert system under the Global Health and Medicine Initiative – has also supported the Institute to build the capacity of researchers through research-based projects, surveillance and laboratory support for pathogens of public health importance in Ghana,” Mr. Momita stated.
The two-day meeting witnessed the attendance of researchers, health practitioners, policymakers and the public, and also afforded NMIMR the opportunity to receive valuable feedback from stakeholders in evaluating its research programmes and activities.