Forty participants from thirteen countries convened in Stellenbosch during the last week of June 2016 to take part in a training workshop on stem cell science and its application in Africa. This was the first event to be co-hosted by STIAS and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), based in Nairobi.
Participants in the AAS-STIAS Workshop on Stem Cell Science and Applications, 27 June to 1 July 2016
Fifteen specialists and scholars in the field of cell biology from India, South Africa, Brazil, Canada, Nigeria and Kenya presented and mentored twenty young scientists from all five regions in Africa. Experts included STIAS fellows Abdallah Daar, Dorairajan Balasubramanian and Berhanu Abegaz.
The five-day workshop offered specialists as well as young researchers an opportunity to present their research, to discuss the applications and challenges of cell biology in Africa, and to form mentorships.
The event strengthened the relationship between STIAS and the AAS, which was established when AAS Executive Director, Berhanu Abegaz, accepted an invitation to take up a fellowship at STIAS during 2013.
STIAS director, Hendrik Geyer articulated the shared goals during the opening when he said that “both STIAS and the AAS aim to support science at the highest level, both have a specific emphasis on Africa and its place in global scholarship, and both share a vision for young researchers and the future of science on the continent.”
During the workshop the young scientists established a working committee with members from each region in Africa to strengthen cell biology and regenerative medicine as a key field of research to address Africa’s changing health needs, including the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases and conditions.
A number of initiatives were agreed upon at the conclusion of the week-long workshop, including:
- to set up a platform that will raise awareness about the importance of cell biology in Africa,
- to share funding and research opportunities as well as new publications in the field,
- to increase collaboration among stem cell scientists in Africa,
- to compare and enhance university syllabi on cell biology in Africa,
- to initiate exchange visits to various cell biology facilities, and
- to stimulate further mentorship with experienced scholars worldwide.
A survey of existing facilities in each of Africa’s regions will be conducted to determine whether some facilities may be identified as regional hubs where researchers from the region may access equipment.
Participants for the workshop were selected based on their participation in previous workshops on cell biology and regenerative medicine that were hosted by the AAS during 2013 and 2014, as well as through a call for applications on the AAS website and newsletters.
The programme included a day of practical demonstrations and hands-on experience in three cell laboratories in the Western Cape, namely the University of Cape Town’s Division of Cell Biology, Stellenbosch University’s ISLET Research Laboratory at Tygerberg, and the facilities of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in Cape Town.
The working committee will be chaired by Marianne Mureithi from the University of Nairobi, with the following five regional members: Zohra Aloui from the Institut Pasteur de Tunis (Northern Africa), Nkiruka Azubike from the University of Nigeria (Western Africa), Farisai Chidzwondo from the University of Zimbabwe (Southern Africa), Mosab Mohammed from Al Neelain University in Sudan (Eastern Africa) and Denis Zofou from the University of Buea in Cameroon (Central Africa).
The committee will prepare a report and publication from the workshop, as well as a proposal to funders to continue the proposed activities of the group.