Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. Each initiative is an experiment in the use of challenges to focus innovation on making an impact. Individual challenges address some of the same problems, but from differing perspectives.
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Chijioke Kaduru of Corona Management Systems in Nigeria will strengthen malaria mathematical modeling capability and capacity in Nigeria by building a fellowship program for field epidemiologists and current doctorate students in epidemiology. The program will be embedded within the Nigeria Field Epidemiology Training Program (NFETP), which is managed and coordinated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. The NFETP serves to strengthen and coordinate Nigeria’s ability to respond to public health events through training public health leaders in interventional epidemiology and developing institutionalized and sustainable public health workforce capacity, and its graduates participate in priority disease control programs, including for malaria and neglected tropical diseases. The new fellowship program is expected to increase the number of Ph.D. level-trained mathematical modelers with malaria expertise based in Nigeria and localize modeling expertise to support the National Malaria Elimination Program.
Wilfred Ndifon of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences - Next Einstein Initiative Foundation in Rwanda together with Luc Djogbénou from the Université d'Abomey-Calavi, Benin, and Jeanine Condo from the University of Rwanda, will collaborate with academic institutions, operational partners and national malaria control programs (NMCPs) from Benin, Rwanda, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Côte d'Ivoire, Switzerland, Australia, Kenya and Ghana to create a sustainable ecosystem of mathematical modelers, translational specialists, and decision-makers to support malaria interventions in Africa. They will develop curricula in modeling, epidemiology, and infectious disease biology for MSc and PhD students. They will also bridge the gap between academic modeling and the operational needs of NMCPs across English, French and Portuguese-speaking countries by developing targeted training for researchers and NMCP staff. This cultural shift in educational approaches is designed to teach the language of data scientists while focusing research on providing data-driven evidence relevant for policy making.
Yaw Asare Afrane of the University of Ghana will build malaria modeling capacity in West Africa by training a critical mass of modeling scientists across multiple career stages to work closely with national malaria control programs (NMCPs). They will strengthen infrastructure and faculty in existing laboratories, provide technical training and support, and promote modeling as a PhD program in universities. They will also develop mathematical modeling curricula in malaria and NTDs in multiple languages and adapted for each country, which will be freely available online. In addition, they will build an anglo-franco-lusophone West African consortium of modelers, epidemiologists, parasitologists, and NMCPs, to share expertise and support NMCP priorities, and ultimately to sustain reductions in malaria burden.
Sheetal Silal of the University of Cape Town in South Africa will establish the Malaria Modeling and Analytics: Leaders in Africa (MMALA) program to promote the training and career development of a critical mass of African malaria modelers that can support decision making of national malaria control programs (NMCPs). They will increase the number of PhD-trained mathematical modelers with malaria expertise in sub-Saharan Africa institutions, and foster relationships with NCMPs from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Benin, Cameroon, and Ghana including providing literacy training workshops. Twelve PhD candidates will be selected and provided with complementary coursework, research skills development, and secondment opportunities at their local NMCPs. They will also hold regional and central events to help build networks and share expertise across this cohort of modelers and develop an open web resource for malaria.
Charles Wondji of the Centre for Research in Infectious Diseases in Cameroon will establish the African Consortium in Modeling for Effective Vector Control (ACoMVeC) together with seven research institutes across the continent, bringing together African scientists and northern partners in the U.S. and United Kingdom to help improve malaria control. They will train 15 PhD level modelers at both French- and English-speaking African universities in transmission dynamics modeling, coding compartmental models using R or Python, statistical methods, understanding uncertainty, and using models for policy. These modelers will investigate several independent projects including modelling the impact of insecticide resistance on malaria transmission. They will also set up technical advisory groups to help national malaria control programs identify key operational research projects for modeling and effectively leverage modeling approaches to facilitate decision making.