India Alliance & African Academy of Sciences announce first awardees of the Africa-India Mobility Fund (AIMF)

12 Feb 2019

India Alliance & African Academy of Sciences announce first awardees of the Africa-India Mobility Fund (AIMF)


Eight African and Indian scientists will be supported through Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance (India Alliance) and The African Academy of Sciences’ (AAS) innovative mobility grants aimed at increasing scientific collaboration among African and Indian researchers. The Africa – India Mobility Fund (AIMF)  is a collaborative effort between India Alliance and The AAS that funds African and Indian researchers to conduct visits of three months in either direction. Funding supports collaboration in research in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, dengue, malaria, vector-borne diseases, parasitic infections, emerging infections, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, health systems research, antimicrobial resistance, microbiome, drug development and general biomedical sciences.

The grantees funded in this first round of funding for the AIMF are:

From Africa
Elias Emeka Elemike, Postdoctoral Researcher, North West University, South Africa
Elias Emeka Elemike is a Lecturer at the Federal University of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria and a postdoctoral researcher at the North West University Mafikeng campus, South Africa. The holder of a PhD in inorganic chemistry has worked in different universities since 2012. He is so keen on green nanotechnology for various applications and has published more than 35 articles in peer reviewed journals. He has several international collaborations, including with China’s South East University and South Africa’s University of Kwazulu-Natal and the Nelson Mandela University, among others. He is a motivator, a great team-player and passionate for the well-being of the less privileged. 
Project: Development of reduced graphene oxide-Ag-ZnO nanocomposites for multifunctional antimicrobial, photocatalytic and sensing applications
Elemike will be working at SN Bose National Centre for Basic Science Kolkata India with Arup Kumar Raychaudhuri and Barnali Ghosh on reduced graphene oxide-Ag-ZnO nanocomposites for multifunctional antimicrobial, photocatalytic and sensing applications. Such nanocomposites will be valuable in overall purification of waste water as it will detect possible contaminants through sensing methods, degrade dyes by photocatalytic means and deactivate pathogens due to the expected antimicrobial properties. Water purification is still a global challenge especially to the developing countries and this research is expected to use cheap methods to address such problems.
Eric Ogola, Epidemiologist and Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Kenya

Eric Ogola is a research scientist with special interest in one health and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). He also works as a Lecturer in the Department of Public and Community Health at Jaramogi Oginga University of Science and Technology, Kenya. His current research interest is on mortality reduction in neonates and mothers through targeted innovations. 

Project: Cutting-edge genomic technology to identify genes responsible for AMR in children and their mothers

Ogola is a recipient of the Africa-India Mobility Fund. This coming year, he will be making a 30-day collaborative visit to the National Centre for Microbial Resources (NCMR) in Pune, India. Ogola is collaborating with Yogesh Shouche, the Director at NCMR and a renowned microbiologist and Professor at Pune University. They are using cutting-edge genomic technology to identify genes responsible for AMR in children and their mothers. This aims to reduce mortality while improving antimicrobial stewardship. 

Ifeoma Ezenyi, Senior Research Fellow, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Nigeria

Ifeoma Ezenyi holds a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy and presently works in Nigeria as a Senior Research Fellow with the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development. Since completion of her doctoral studies in 2015 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Ifeoma has worked extensively in the field of drug discovery from natural products. Her main focus is the discovery of safe and effective alternatives for the treatment of malaria and she has identified antimalarial constituents of different medical plants and elucidated their effects. In the course of her career, Ifeoma has received sponsored training from the National Chemical Laboratory in India; Kumasi Center for Collaborative research in Ghana and  The Medical Research Council  Unit in The Gambia. She is also a recipient of the prestigious L’Oreal UNESCO regional fellowship for women in Science (sub Saharan Africa) and an individual research grant from the International Foundation for Science, Sweden.  

Project: Malaria research capacity strengthening for antimalarial drug discovery

Ifeoma will work with Vinay Verma and Shailja Singh of the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India. During her stay, she will also visit the National Institute for Malaria Research to facilitate knowledge sharing on malaria research between their research groups. The scope of the project includes testing natural compound libraries to identify new leads and their parasitic targets. She will also receive training on handling and processing of clinical isolates and applying best practices in antimalarial research laboratory management. 

John Osei Sekyere, Lecturer, University of Pretoria, South Africa

John Osei Sekyere is a Ghanaian pharmacist (B. Pharm) and clinical/medical microbiologist (PhD) with especial interest and skill in antimicrobial resistance, infectious diseases epidemiology and diagnostics, host-microbiome interactions and bacterial genomics. He is currently with the Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Pretoria, where he supervises postgraduate students and researches on microbiomics (gut-lung axis), genomic epidemiology of bacteria, and One Health antimicrobial resistance using next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics. His current projects include hunting for adjuvants that can modulate or synergise the efficacy of approved antibiotics to combat multidrug-resistant bacteria, probiotics and vaccine research, microbiome-immunity-drug interactions in the host etc. 

Project: Investigation into Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other bacterial pathogens in the context of host-pathogen interactions, host-microbiome and pathogen-microbiome interactions, and genome editing techniques

Sekyere has been awarded an AIMF grant to travel to the Central Drug Research Institute and the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in India to undertake training in microbiomics, immunology, animal models of tuberculosis, and CRISPR interference to silence or modify the genome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. He will be visiting Amit Misra of the Central Drug Research Institute at Lucknow, India, and Nisheeth Agrawal of the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute based in Delhi, India. This collaborative visit is being funded by the AAS-AIMF award for a period of 42 days to establish research collaborations between these two institutions and the Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. These collaborations shall lead to the exchange of ideas and research technology/skill to advance investigations into Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other bacterial pathogens in the context of host-pathogen interactions, host-microbiome and pathogen-microbiome interactions, and genome editing techniques.


Indian Grantees
M.V.N.L. Chaitanya, Head of Phytomedicine & Phytochemistry, Raghavendra Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (RIPER) Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, India

Chaitanya is an academic researcher and pharmacognosist with 10 years’ experience in teaching, quality control and research on traditional medicine, natural products, drug discovery, ethno-pharmacology, isolation and characterisation. Chaitanya completed his PhD in pharmacognosy and phytomedicine from JSS Academy of Higher Education & Research (Formerly Known as Jagadguru Sri Shivarathreeshwara University), Mysuru, India and is currently the Head of Phytomedicine & Phytochemistry division RERDS-CPR at RIPER.  His current research interests include discovery of potent anticancer leads and drugs (human dual topopoisons & DNA caspase promoters) from nature like holistic plants, weeds, algae, fungus, crystals and minerals. Chaitanya is recipient of many scientific awards and also serves as an editorial member on various standard publishing groups.

Project: Drug discovery of human dual topoisomerases inhibitor and DNA caspase activator from Rosmarinus officinalis and its formulation development using modern and traditional concepts

Chaitanya is working on the drug discovery and traditional formulation development of anticancer natural drugs, with multi-targeting approach, targeting human DNA topoisomerases and caspases along with Indian and African collaborators. As multi-targeting approach of anticancer drugs is in high demand and biomedical researchers and medical professional world over are working towards developing solutions to aid holistic preventive care. His proposed project at University of Ghana, Ghana in collaboration with Dr. Dorcas Osei-Safo, will lay a platform for the basis of a development of anticancer elixir using modernised traditional concepts.

Ganesh Bhutkar, Assistant Head of Research, Department of Computer Engineering, Vishwakarma Institute of Technology

Bhutkar is an Indian usability researcher and academician. He is the Coordinator, Centre of Excellence in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and also, Assistant Head (Research), Department of Computer Engineering at VIT, Pune, India. His research work mainly focuses on HCI, assistive technologies and medical applications / usability. He has PhD in HCI from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, and has more than 20 years’ of experience in academic and research activities. Bhutkar is an active member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI). Recently his research team developed a utility Android app - Eye+, for visually impaired users. This app has more than 6000 downloads and was also nominated for a National Award in 2018. He has received several international invitations / travel grants from SIGCHI, EIT and IFIP in conferences and other events in Europe, Asia and Africa. 

Project: Prototype Design of Mobile app for Mothers of Preterm Infants

Through AIMF, Bhutkar will be collaborating with Dr. Melissa Densmore, an ethnographer with experience in Human Computer Interactions at University of Cape town, South Africa. Bhutkar and his research team is currently developing a mobile app for mothers of preterm infants at Centre of Excellence in Human Computer Interaction, VIT Pune, India. An initial version of paper prototype of this application in local Indian context has been developed. A preterm birth of infants is a significant public health issue in developing countries in Asia as well as Africa. Mothers of preterm infants and their families face several problems which is leading to a high-level of mental stress. These problems include absence of messaging and/or calling services in emergency, poor channels of communication with physicians, no platform for experience sharing, lack of understanding about infant growth tracking and shattered confidence of mothers. This prototype design of mobile app for mothers of preterm infants include several facilities for ‘Save Our Souls’ (SOS), user guide, growth tracking, experience sharing and mother’s health monitoring, improving their work engagement and communication with assigned physicians. This app aims to reduce mental stress of these mothers of preterm infants. The plan is to also extend this app in local African context through a collaboration with University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa.


Mariappan Rajan, Assistant Professor, Madurai Kamaraj University

Rajan is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of Natural Products Chemistry, School of Chemistry, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. Rajan's Biomaterials in Medicinal Chemistry laboratory (BMCL), is mainly interested in the development of biodegradable polymeric nanocarrier systems, nanogels, nanoparticles, nanocomposite scaffolds, bio-ceramic materials and mineral substituted scaffold for tissue engineering, drug delivery and wound dressing applications. Currently, he is handling various research projects, and supervising master’s and PhD students. Rajan also has extensive international research collaborations with researchers in South Africa, Taiwan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Italy, and India. He has multiple editorial duties in many reputed international journals. 

Project: Design and development of multi-properties encompassing materials for diabetic ulcers tissue engineering

Diabetic pathologies are a global concern, resulting in major medical, social and economic burden for patients, caregivers and government health care systems alike. Numerous materials have been developed for diabetic wound healing. However, these materials are difficult to handle, have poor adherence to the wound bed, and are non-absorbent which allows wound exudate to accumulate that increases bacterial invasion and infection at the site of injury. Traditional plants like Senna auriculata, Gymnema sylvestre, and Ficus carica and their poly-phenolic natural compounds have attracted attention of researchers because of their anti-diabetic, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. The newly developed wound healing nanocomposite-based bandages will consist of the natural anti-diabetic drug (ND), poly-phenolic compound (PP) and extracellular matrix mimicking polymer (cellulose, pectin, chitosan, poly maltitol, poly xylitol, poly urethane etc.,) (P) coupled with CNT/GO/fiber. Rajan will be working with Dr. Nicolette Houreld at University of Johannesburg to assess the wound healing property of this bandage in vitro diabetic wound model in WS1 cell lines (human skin fibroblast cells).


Subbiah Latha, Associate Professor, Anna University, Chennai

Latha completed a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Dr. M.G.R. Medical University, Chennai in India and master’s and PhD in pharmacy from the Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. Presently, Latha is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Technology, Anna University. She has 20 years’ experience in higher education and research that she gained at Jadavpur University, Bharathidasan University and Anna University. Latha has broad knowledge in pharmaceutics / pharmaceutical engineering and pharmacology. Her research interests include the development of novel drug carriers using magnetic nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery. Latha is a visiting scientist to Technische Universität, Ilmenau, Germany; and the Yokohama National Universit and Shizuoka University in Japan. She has authored over 63 research publications and 12 book chapters and edited a book titled Nanobiopharmaceutical Technology – Applications and Perspectives published by Elsevier. She has so far supervised 46 postdocs, PhD and master’s students. She has been the recipient of the 2008 Tamil Nadu Young Scientist Fellowship for Young Scientists; the 2014 Tamil Nadu Young Women Scientist Award in Medical Sciences in recognition of outstanding research in pharmacy; the 2014 Late Smt. Shyama Dahiya Memorial Award for the outstanding pharmacy teacher and the 2018 Young Pharmacist Award from the Association of Pharmacy Professionals. She is a life member of many professional bodies.

Project - Formulation and evaluation of magnetically triggerable smart tablets for improved ulcer therapy

On the AIMF grant, Latha will be working at University of Ibadan, Nigeria with Professor Oluwatoyin A. Odeku. Latha is developing a smart magnetic tablet with omeprazole and ranitidine hydrochloride as model drugs and smart excipients including pH sensitive polymers for environment sensitive drug release. The proposed smart magnetic tablet shall aid the self-regulated drug release in the GI tract with increased gastric resident time, improved bioavailability and pharmacology at a relatively low dose, magnetic drug targeting at the site of action, less side effects due to reduced dose dumping, improved drug stability in the harsh GI environment and collectively an improved ulcer therapy. These smart tablets would provide self-regulated, on-demand, magnetic targeted and triggered drug delivery lead to significantly improved antiulcer therapy. The research results could be translated to the healthcare industry and clinical professionals for improved and smart drug delivery approaches