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IDeAL Director awarded Chalmers Medal 2019

September 25, 2019

Dr. Sam Kinyanjui a researcher with the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and IDeAL Director was awarded the 2019 Chalmers Medal by the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (UK). The medal, which was awarded during the 11th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health in Liverpool,  recognises Dr. Kinyanjui’s tremendous contribution to the building of research capacity in Africa.

Although Dr. Kinyanjui has a primary research interest in the development of malaria vaccines, over the last 13 years he has been deeply involved in pushing for more research in Africa by Africans. In 2006 he took a break from his lab research to join the African Union as a health research consultant and contributed to the  2006 Accra Declaration for Health Research in and the 2007 Bamako Call to Action on Research for Health.   Early this year he was engaged by NEPAD to join a team validating the Health Research and Innovation Strategy for Africa (HRISA) 2018-2030. These declarations have been instrumental in persuading African governments to fulfil their commitment of allocating up to 2% of GDP to research. Several countries have now established national research funds with  Kenya allocating up to about 3 billion Shillings (million dollars)  per year to its National Research Fund.

Dr. Kinyanjui has also been at the forefront of the campaign for shifting of the centre of gravity of research on African issues to  Africa. He spearheaded various discussions and consultations that led to research funders such as the Wellcome Trust and DFID delegating the management of their funding for African researchers and institutions to local organization such as the Consortium for National Health Research in Kenya and the Health Research Capacity Strengthening Initiative in Malawi and more recently, the Africa Academy of Sciences.

Within the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Dr. Kinyanjui has raised over £12 million of funds for capacity building as the principal recipient and over £35 million as a co-recipient over the last 10 years. He leads one of the most productive research training pipelines (Initiative to Develop African Research Leaders, IDeAL). IDeAL focuses on attracting young Africans to research, through attachment and internships providing high-quality Masters and PhD training, supporting postdocs transitioning to independent research and nurturing emerging research leaders. To date, IDeAL has trained over 800 African researchers including over 260 interns, over 120 Masters students and 80 PhD students to completion, with 26 current Masters and 70 current PhD students. IDeAL trainees have collectively attracted funding worth over £15 million and generated over 700 peer-reviewed publications.

Dr. Kinyanjui draws his aspiration and belief in the value of investing in people from his own life story. He grew up in the slums of Nairobi with the poor parent he had little hope of completing his education beyond primary school. Fortunately for him, he was admitted to Starehe Boy’s Centre in Nairobi for his secondary school education. The Center is a charity institution that provides free education to needy boys. Besides high-quality academic training, the school has a very strong focus on mentoring students to become truly global citizens with an emphasis on integrity and service to all mankind. The combination of this mentorship and the appreciation of the sacrifice that others made to enable him to receive the best education a boy could have in Kenya despite coming from a very humble background left a strong impression on Sam and still influences his beliefs and aspirations 30 years later.

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