High throughput pathogen sequencing and predictive models underpin the modern approach to understanding community spread and optimal control of infectious diseases. In this field, despite high disease burden, low income countries have been left behind.
GeMVi aims to reduce this deficit in East Africa, combining strengths of University of Warwick, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (Kenya) and other East African Institutes. GeMVi will engage health authorities and institutes, identify priority questions and link output to policy; fund 20 high calibre Research Fellows on locally relevant projects; transfer sequencing technologies, share bioinformatic methods and develop modelling capacity; generate new understanding through predictive modelling and virus sequence data.
Ultimately GeMVi aims at provision of evidence for intervention decisions, a sustainable collaborative network in the Region, and an Alliance on Virus Prevention and Control Preparedness.
GeMVi is looking to recruit East African Research Fellows to undertake short term public health-oriented projects of relevance to the East African setting. The fellowships will present an excellent opportunity for the Fellows to enhance their skills and work with leading experts in the fields of pathogen sequencing, bioinformatics, predictive modelling and health economics.
Funds are available for 20 Research Fellowships each for a maximum duration of 9 months. Fellowships will be available to Scientists in the region who wish to undertake projects relevant to the goals of GeMVi. There will be 3 rounds of recruitment, the first call went out from 25th January 2019 and was for 6 awards. The second call goes out from the 1st September, 2019 and is for up to 8 more awards. During this call the priority area is mathematical and statistical modelling but we will also consider projects in sequencing, bioinformatics and temporal-spatial analyses. The third call will occur mid 2020.
The Fellowships will support three main forms of projects:
- Next Gen Sequencing, developing new or establishing and applying existing protocols for example, a cost-effective measles or flavivirus sequencing method, using short read Illumina or Oxford Nanopore Technology;
- Bioinformatics, such as pipeline development for whole genome assembling of short read data for influenza virus or metagenomic random-primer sequencing data for samples from fever hotspots. Projects might be focused on new coding methods or analysis of existing data sets;
- Mathematical and Statistical Modelling, such as developing and applying a transmission dynamics simulation model for evaluating measles immunization policy effectiveness; possibly including a health economics component for example to explore relative cost effectiveness of different intervention programmes; or addressing the challenging area of integrating genomics and epidemiological data in a dynamical framework to investigate who acquires infection from whom related to control programmes.
Identifying Fellowship Projects
During the first 6 months of GeMVi we undertook a process of consultation with stakeholders in the East African region to identify priority questions in the areas of:
- Multi-strain viruses
- Routine vaccination
- Disease surveillance/epidemic response
- Zoonotic prevention or control
- Emerging infectious diseases and control
- Cost-benefit analysis
- Optimal targeting of control
The key stakeholders consulted included Ministries of Health, research institutes, and universities with epidemiology and disease modelling research interests. The consultation itself was an important GeMVi deliverable. The Fellowship projects will be designed to address the questions identified during the consultations (see examples of project outlines listed below). The suitable (and willing) Partner institution to support the project and the lead person in the institution will be identified by circulating project briefs among the Partners.
Applicants will develop project outlines in relation to the following viruses and their control in countries in East Africa with public health justification and impact:
- Measles and Rubella
- HPV (Human papillomavirus)
- Outbreak Dynamics and Control
Examples of previously successful projects outlines are listed below. You can modify and adapt these to suit your setting and priorities.
If you are aware of a specific problem the solution to which would have potential public health implications, you can develop your proposal with GeMVi technical support.
We are interested in receiving project descriptions from potential Research Fellow candidates or from Partner institutions, provided that they can demonstrate that the projects address national or local public health issues (this might come from existing literature or evidence of direct communication with National or sub-National level Public Health officers)
The Fellowships may be undertaken at the Fellow’s home institution with short periods at one of the GeMVi Partner institutions or as a placement away from the home institution at a GeMVi Partner or collaborating institution.
Partners offering to host a fellow will be required to provide a summary of the support that will be provided to the Fellow including:
- sitting space, access to labs, computing and IT facilities,
- other administrative support e.g. arranging for travel.
Research fellows will be provided with a budget of between 10,000 to 20,000 GBP. The funding level will depend upon duration of project, placement (home or overseas), travel and laboratory, computing or bioinformatics requirements. We will work with the successful applicants to develop the final detail of the award.
To qualify for the fellowships applicants should:
- Have a PhD in the biological sciences, mathematics, computing science or statistics, where the project they undertook had a significant component of computational biology or infectious disease modelling or a Master’s degree with strong track record in genomic, informatics, or disease transmission and intervention modelling research.
- Hold a research position in an East African research organisation or university. If on contract-based funding, they should have at least 6 months remaining beyond the proposed end of the fellowship.
- Be able to provide a letter of support and release from the Head of their contracting institution. The institution should also confirm continued salary support for the fellow during the course of the fellowship.
- Applicants without current institutional affiliation may be considered and a placement at a GeMVi Partner institution arranged. Decisions will be based on career track of the candidate and capacity benefits for East Africa.
- Hold a valid passport (or adequate travel ID) and be ready to travel at relatively short-notice (without this the applicant recognizes they will be based entirely in their home country).