The MRC Unit in The Gambia (MRCG) is one of two research units established in sub- Saharan Africa by the Medical Research Council UK and is the MRC’s single largest investment in medical research in a low and middle-income country. MRCG represents a unique concentration of scientific expertise and high-quality research platforms in the West African region.
The Unit’s investigator-led research is underpinned by the combination of excellent laboratory facilities and easy access to the field with well-defined populations that are highly supportive of our research, excellent clinical services, rigorous ethical procedures and the ability to deliver GCP-compliant clinical trials.
MRC’s mission is to deliver innovative, world-leading research aimed at reducing the burden of illness and death in low and middle-income countries, supported by an enabling research environment. The MRC unit also wishes to transform the outputs and outcomes of the MRCG’s research, using a variety of mechanisms, into changes in health practices and policies that maximise the health and economic impact of research. To address health issues of priority in low and middle-income countries by strengthening partnerships and engagement with a range of stakeholders, including the people and the Government of The Gambia and the West African Region, funding partners and research collaborators.
Prof. Umberto D’Alessandro (MD, MSc, PhD) has a long working experience in Africa, first as a clinician (Benin and Kenya) and later as a clinical epidemiologist (The Gambia). He has been involved in malaria research since 1990 when he carried out the evaluation of the Gambian National programme on insecticide-treated bed nets. He joined the Department of Parasitology at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium in 1996 where he was, until the end of 2010, the head of the Epidemiology Unit. There, he developed a research program around three themes: antimalarial treatment, including drug resistance, malaria prevention, and the P. vivax in vitro cycle, implemented in several malaria endemic countries, e.g. Uganda, Burkina Faso, Benin, Vietnam, Peru, etc. In 2011, he joined the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia (MRCG) as theme leader of disease control and elimination. In January 2014, he was appointed director of the MRCG and professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His research program on malaria at the MRCG is built around questions related to malaria elimination/eradication.
Anna Roca (PhD) is an infectious disease epidemiologist with significant experience leading research groups in Southern and Western Africa. Dr Roca is the Disease Control and Elimination Deputy Theme Leader at the MRC Unit The Gambia and a MRC UK Program Leader. Dr Roca leads an independent line of research focused on the dynamics of bacterial infections and how these dynamics are modified by public health interventions. To understand how bacteria are transmitted to the neonates and design novel interventions to block neonatal transmission are her main research priorities. Her research portfolio includes the evaluation on how new intervention impact on antibiotic resistance. She has served in several international pneumonia experts groups; including WHO, BMGF, Global Burden of Disease and Decade of Vaccines.
Dr Diallo is an anthropologist, a Postdoctoral researcher at MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM since January 2019. He leads on the social science research activities of PRECISE study in The Gambia.
Dr Diallo has a long working experience on maternal and new-born health and health system research in Mali and Burkina Faso. He has previously worked on multi-country research projects (e.g. FemHealth and iCCM policy analysis). As an anthropologist, Dr Diallo research interests deal with local people perspective, for instance, how people construct ideas about pregnancy, childbirth, and postnatal care, how do they rationalise healthcare seeking in their living environment, because pregnancy and childbirth are biological conditions whose concerns are socially, culturally, economically, and environmental grounded.
From a health systems research perspective within PRECISE, Dr Diallo adopts a holistic approach to address maternal and new-born healthcare in The Gambia. He analyses the different issues from the perspectives of healthcare practitioners, administrative and political stakeholders at different levels, community actors, and mothers. By disentangling different challenges that health facilities and communities face, this will help The Gambia to plan and implement appropriate health interventions for the improvement of maternal and new-born health outcomes across the country.
Hawanatu Jah (MD, MSc) is a specialised Obstetrician & Gynaecologist of German/Sierra Leonean background. After completing specialty training in Germany, she ascertained an MSc in International Public Health (Planning and Management) at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), UK. Previously, Dr Jah setup and coordinated the first ever paediatric Ebola isolation centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone at the peak of the epidemic in 2014, and for several years has lead a Community Based Organisation “Paupers’ Kitchen & Clinic” which provides free meals, education and healthcare to the poor and disable in Bo, Sierra Leone.
Since July 2018, she is the PRECISE Clinical Study Coordinator in The Gambia, based at the MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). She is passionate about saving women’s lives and improving health in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her main interests are perinatal mortality and morbidity, health systems strengthening, and capacity building in Maternal and Child Health.
Dr. Idris Yah’ya has a first degree in Medicine (MBBS) and a Master’s degree in Public Health (MSc) both from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria. He is currently working with the MRC Unit, The Gambia in the PRECISE Project as a Research Clinician and providing maternity cover for Dr. Hawanatu Jah, the Clinical Study Coordinator. Dr. Yah’ya is experienced in both clinical medicine and public health, and has worked for over five years in diverse settings.
He has worked as a Medical Officer and a Facilitator providing programmatic clinical services and training for trainers in National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Training Centre, Zaria Nigeria based on the national strategic plan for the control and prevention of TB/HIV, Leprosy, and other neglected tropical diseases. He has also worked as a Medical Officer in the Federal Medical Center, Niger state Nigeria where provided clinical services.
He is keenly interested in child and maternal health programs, TB/HIV programs, health care policy, management, and financing with a biased mind towards epidemiology of infectious diseases.
Fatoumata Kongira is responsible for coordinating and supervising the activities of Research Nurses, and training nurses and field assistants.
Her previous experience includes the successful coordination of two research projects at the MRCG@LSHTM from 2017 to 2018,: VIDA (Vaccine Impact on Diarrhoea in Africa), a case control observational study of the impact of Rotavirus vaccine on children 0 to 59 months; and Pyramax, a randomised test-control trial that assessed the efficacy of the Pyramax tablet on asymptomatic, mono infection of the plasmodium parasite.
In addition to her role as Nurse Coordinator, she is also currently acting as Field Site Coordinator, for both PRECISE and PRECISE-DYAD studies.
Fatima is a lab scientist, and she has an MSc in Biology. She coordinates the PRECISE project laboratory activities at MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM.
Fatima joined the Unit in 2011 as an intern to work on the respiratory pathogen in the molecular microbiology laboratory. She later worked on PneumoWAR project, a WHO regional study on meningitis surveillance in children 0-5 year in West Africa. During this period, Fatima supervised and trained lab technicians, students, on microbiology and molecular techniques, analysed samples, and data in the WHO Regional Reference Lab for invasive bacterial diseases at MRCG at LSHTM.
Abdoulie Sillah is a Public Sector Management specialist with vast experience in Teaching, Project Management, Public administration, Public Policy, and evaluation. He currently managed portfolio of seven projects at MRCG at LSHTM, including the PRECISE study which he recently joined to replace his predecessor, Alpha Bah. He holds masters in Public Sector Management at the Ghana Institute of Management & Public Administration and also first degree in Development Studies with a minor in Psychology at the University of the Gambia.
Yorro Bah is a field supervisor and trainer at the Gambian site. He has an extensive background in working for the MRC. Since 1989, Yorro rose from the ranks of field assistant to supervisor and trainer.
His previous experience of working in MRC includes the successful coordination of various research projects: DIS (Double Intervention Study), NIBP (National Impregnated Bed-Net Programme), SANTE (Spray and Nets Towards malaria Elimination), vaccine wastage study and PregNancy2 study.
In addition to his role as a field supervisor, he is also working for PRECISE studies which entails training field assistants on sensitization, consent, community approaches and ethics. Some field work activities range from coordination of community engagement through village meetings, radio advertising and organizing transportation in Farafenni.