Merck Foundation fetes 13 African women researchers at MARS Awards 2021 ceremony

The CEO of Merck Foundation, Senator Rasha Kelej and scientific committee recognised 13 winners of best African Women Researchers and best Young African Researchers of MARS Awards 2021 ceremony via videoconference for their valuable research work and contribution to empowering women and youth in STEM.

At the event, Merck Foundation also announced the Call for Applications for MARS best young African and best African women researchers Awards 2022, with the aim to Empower Women and Youth in Research and STEM.

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, conducted the Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit – MARS 2021 Awards ceremony, in partnership with the African Union, through videoconference to felicitate the 13 winners from 8 African countries, for their valuable research work and contribution to empowering women and youth in STEM.

Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation and Chairperson of MARS Summit stated: “I am very proud of all 13 winners who have been recognized under the 3 categories of ‘Best African Women Researchers Award’, ‘Best Young African Researcher Award’, ‘Best Young African Researcher Special Awards’ for their valuable contribution, especially by African Female Scientists who are under presented in this field. Through Merck Foundation African Research Summit – MARS Awards, we aim to empower African young researchers & women researchers, advancing their research capacity and promote their contribution to STEM”.

The award ceremony was also attended by Dr Ahmed Hamdy, Executive Director, African Union’s Scientific, Technical and Research Commission; Prof Andrew Kambugu, The Sande-McKinnell Executive Director at the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, Uganda; and Prof. Elijah Songkok, Professor, Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases College of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Kenya.

Dr. Ahmed Hamdy said: “I congratulate all the worthy winners of MARS Awards 2021. This is a very valuable platform for African women and young African researchers who are engaged and interested in health research”.

The winners of ‘Best African women Researchers Award’ – who include Kenya’s Regina Wachuka Mbugua and Beatrice Mukami Muriuki – and ‘Best Young African Researcher Award’ category will be enrolled into research training at a premier research institute in India.

“I am also excited to announce the Call for Applications for our prestigious Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit (MARS) Awards 2022. ‘The Role of Scientific Research in responding to Cancer and Vaccines Development – Two emerging challenges in Africa’ will be the key focus of this year. Eventually, through this contest, Merck Foundation aims to empower young African researchers & women researchers to strengthen the important role research plays towards contributing to public health thus improving healthcare capacity in Africa”, added Dr Rasha Kelej.

The MARS 2021 Award Winners are;

Winners of “MARS Best African Women Researchers Awards”

  • Regina Wachuka Mbugua, KENYA
  • Temitope Adeyemo, NIGERIA
  • Ebele Onuigbo, NIGERIA
  • Beatrice Mukami Muriuki, KENYA
  • Njua Clarisse, CAMEROON

Winners of “MARS Best Young African Researchers Awards”

  • Touwendpoulimde Isabelle Kiendrebeogo, BURKINA FASO
  • Jude Ogechukwu Okoye, NIGERIA
  • Jean-Paul Ngbolua Koto-Te-Nyiwa, DRC

Winners of “MARS Best Young African Researchers Special Awards”

  • Jean Claude Djontu, CAMEROON
  • Jason Kilembe Thambwe, DRC
  • Okedi Francis Xaviour, UGANDA
  • Marceline Djuidje Ngounoue, CAMEROON
  • Oppah Kuguyo, ZIMBABWE

Details for MARS AWARDS 2022

Abstracts are invited from final year African PhD students and young investigators involved in research related to either of the following topics:

1) Cancer, specially in women

2) Vaccines Development

The applicants should be primarily based at African Research Institutes and Universities, although collaboration within Africa as well as outside is encouraged.

The application deadline is 31 July 2022

Applications can be submitted via email to along with your CV (including Name, Gender, Country, University/Hospital Name, Email address, Mobile Number) and the abstract document as an attachment.

Other Details:

  • All Abstracts will be peer reviewed, and 15 winners will be eligible for a sponsorship to attend MARS Summit
  • Best three Abstracts will be eligible for Research Awards
  • Research Awards will be also dedicated for Best African Women Researchers

The Merck Foundation, established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany. It aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth.


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