Kenya’s Beatrice Nyagol crowned overall winner of UNESCO-MARS research contest




Merck has announced 5 winners from Kenya, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Uganda and Ethiopia under the category of ‘Best African Women Researchers Award’ and four winners from Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia and Zimbabwe for ‘Best Young African Researchers Award’ during the recently held second UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where the first Best African Women Researchers Award was being launched.

Prof Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG congratulated the winners: “Merck will work together with UNESCO to empower young researchers which raises the level of scientific research in Africa and encourages in particular young women researchers to pursue their dreams, work for improving access to health solutions and make a difference in the continent. Moreover, I am very pleased to offer my support to motivate female researchers & healthcare providers and recognize their excellent contribution to fields where they are underrepresented”.

(TOP: UNESCO-MARS 2016 Award winners: (L-R) front row – Maria Nabaggala, Martha Zewdie, Constantine Asahngwa, Patricia Rantshabeng,  Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Lamin Cham, Tinashe Nyazika, Beatrice Nyagol with Prof Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Prof Dr Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman, E.Merck KG; Prof Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO and Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare).

Merck will provide the winners with training and mentorship opportunity to advance their capacity and helps bring them to the international standard. The winner of MARS Research awards will be appointed as Merck Ambassadors of Empowering Women and Girls in STEM in their own countries through several future initiatives will be announced in 2017” explained Rasha Kelej Chief Social Officer, Merck.

The recipients of the awards who are PhD students and young investigators based at African research institutes and universities were selected based on the abstracts they submitted. These impressive abstracts were related to Infectious Diseases with the aim to improve Women Health, the focus of UNESCO-MARS 2016.

In her introductory remarks, Dr Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare highlighted: “This is the second UNESCO-MARS we are holding after the successful one held in Geneva, Switzerland in 2015. Merck is committed to empowering women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) which will consequently contribute to improving the quality of research and science in Africa.”

“Merck’s support for research and healthcare especially in the field of oncology where women are currently under-represented will help bridge the gender gap in STEM in Africa.  Merck have provided earlier this year Oncology fellowship program to African women doctors from Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania. Not only that we have also supported women cancer survivors through access to information, awareness about prevention and early detection, health and economic empowerment through Merck more than a a patient initiative which focuses mainly on Cancer in women and its social misperception and stigma” Rasha Kelej added.

“The first recipient, Patricia Rantshabeng from Botswana, was awarded for her study on cancer in women and its relation to infectious diseases. This is aligned with our objectives to empower women in both fields of research and oncology to improve women health” Rasha Kelej explained.

‘Best African Women Researchers Award’
The ‘Best African Women Researchers Awards’ with the aim of promoting women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) went to five women researchers from across Africa, who were recognized for the outstanding quality of their research.

1st winner: Kenya
Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya Medical Research Institute for her study on: “Clinicians’ experiences and insights in conducting an intra-vaginal ring study among young women in Kisumu, Kenya, 2015 -Lessons learned” (see the video section: UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best African Woman Researcher Award’ 1st place winner, Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya)

2nd winner: Burkina Faso
Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University of Ouagadougou for her study on: “Molecular diagnosis of cytomegalovirus (CMV), the human herpes virus type 6 (HHV6) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) by real-time PCR in pregnant women infected or not infected by HIV at Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso” (see the video section: UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best African Woman Researcher Award’ 2nd place winner, Alice Rogomenoma)

3rd winner: Gabon
Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua Ecole Doctorale Regionale d’Afrique Centrale, Franceville for her study on: “Pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in children with malaria in Franceville, Gabon”

4th winner: Uganda
Maria Nabaggala, from the Infectious Diseases Institute for her study on: “Understanding outcomes of HIV positive patient tracking following a missed appointment in rural Uganda” (see the video section: UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best African Woman Researcher Award’ 4th place winner, Maria Nabaggala, Uganda)

5th winner: Ethiopia
Martha Zewdie, Armauer Hansen Research Institute for her study on: “Ex-vivo characterization of regulatory T-cells in pulmonary tuberculosis patients, latently infected persons, and healthy endemic controls” (see the video section: UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best African Women Researcher Award’ 5th place winner, Martha Zewdie, Ethiopia)

‘Best Young African Researchers Award’
The three categories of the ‘Best Young Researchers Award’ were given to two female and two male researchers Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia and Zimbabwe.

1st winner: Botswana
Patricia Rantshabeng, University of Botswana for her study on: “Prevalence of oncogenic Human Papillomavirus genotypes in women with vulvar and cervical squamous cell carcinoma in Botswana (see the video section: UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best Young African Researcher Award’ 1st place winner, Patricia Rantshabeng, Botswana)

2nd winner: Cameroon
Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care for his study on: “The experiences of women living with trachoma in Africa: A qualitative systematic review” (see the video section: UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best Young African Researcher Award’ 2nd place, Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon)

3rd winner: Zimbabwe
Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe for his study on: “Cryptococcus neoformans population diversity is not associated with clinical outcomes of HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis patients in Zimbabwe” (see the video section: UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best Young Researcher Award’ 3rd place winner, Tinashe Nyazika, Zimbabwe)

3rd winner: Gambia
Lamin Cham, from National Aids Control Program for his study on: “Qualitative detection of proviral-DNA of HIV-1 in neonates to determine the efficacy of antiretroviral therapy in the prevention of vertical transmission of HIV-1 in the Gambia” (see the video section: UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best Young Researcher Award’ 3rd place winner, Lamin Cham, Gambia)

‘Best African Women Researchers Award’

  • 1st Place: Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya
  • 2nd Place: Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso
  • 3rd Place: Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua, Ecole Doctorale Regionale d’Afrique Centrale, Franceville, Gabon
  • 4th Place: Maria Nabaggala, Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda
  • 5th Place: Martha Zewdie, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia

‘Best Young African Researchers Award’

  • 1st Place: Patricia Rantshabeng, University of Botswana, Botswana
  • 2nd Place: Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care
  • 3rd Place: Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
  • 3rd place : Lamin Cham, National Aids Control Program, Gambia




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