Dr Gordon A. Awandare, Head of the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Ghana, has become the first Ghanaian to win the Royal Society Pfizer Early Career Award.
The Early Career Award is presented to a research scientist showing exceptional promise, but at an earlier stage of his or her career, usually having received their PhD within the last 20 years.
The 2015 Award is in recognition of his achievements in Molecular and Cellular Studies of Malaria, including how Malaria parasites invade red blood cells and cause diseases.
The prize for Early Career Award winner is £15,000, including personal prize money and funds for a small research project of their choice.
The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.
The Society’s fundamental purpose, as it has been since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in Science and to encourage the development and use of Science for the benefit of humanity.
On winning the Pfizer Award, an elated Dr Awandare told the Ghana News Agency on Thursday in Accra that: “It is an enormous honour to me and my team, including students, faculty and collaborators.
“We are building capacity for high quality science right here in Africa, and this award indicates that we are on course.
“But we are only getting started therefore recognition from such an esteemed institution as the Royal Society will give momentum to our research and training efforts”.
Dr Awandare and other medalists will be celebrated during the Royal Society’s 10th Anniversary Day in November 2015.
Others are Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum of the National Biomedical Research Institute, Democratic Republic of Congo, who was awarded the 2015 Royal Society Pfizer Advanced Award for his seminal work on viral haemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola, which generated the foundation of our understanding of the epidemiology, clinical manifestations and control of outbreaks of these viral infections.
Dr Awandare is also the Director of the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) at the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, which is a World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence for Higher Education, hosted jointly by the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana.
He obtained a BSc Biochemistry in 1998 and M Phil Biochemistry in 2002 from the University of Ghana. He enrolled for his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health in 2003 and was awarded PhD in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology in 2007, together with the Outstanding Student Award for the best dissertation in his graduating group.
He then took up a post-doctoral fellowship at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, MD, USA, where he worked for three years before establishing his research group at the University of Ghana in 2010.
Dr Awandare’s academic achievements include his role in the discovery of Complement Receptor 1 as a receptor for the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.
In July 2014, the University of Ghana conferred on him the Distinguished Award for Meritorious Service, in recognition of his immense contribution to research and scholarship in the University and in acknowledgment of his potential in the years ahead.
Some past ward winners of the Royal Society Pfizer Awards in Africa include Dr Faith Osier, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya; Abdoulaye Diabate of Burkina Faso and Dr Martin Ota, Clinical Immunologist and Vaccinologist with the Medical Research Council Unit, The Gambia, for the year 2014, 2013 and 2012 respectively. GNA