Oxford Brookes University bioimaging scientists collaborate with researchers in Ghana to create a centre of excellence

Monday, 04 March 2019

Bioimaging web 2

A microscope twinning programme is underway between Oxford Brookes University bioimaging scientists, and scientists at the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) in Accra, Ghana.

A reciprocal training programme is being developed between the Centre and Oxford Brookes Bioimaging Unit.

WACCBIP is part of the University of Ghana and is a World Bank and Wellcome Trust funded research institute, which is training the next generation of scientific leaders in Africa. The focus is on infectious diseases through investment in both people and infrastructure.

Last year, bioimaging scientists from Oxford Brookes visited WACCBIP to help run a course on the modern technologies used to investigate the biology of infectious diseases.

Part of the course focuses on cutting-edge microscopy -  a specialism of Oxford Brookes’ researchers. Last year WACCBIP took delivery of a Carl Zeiss 800 microscope with Airyscan super resolution imaging - one of the most advanced microscopes in the whole of Africa. Oxford Brookes University has the same microscope system as WACCBIP and these two instruments have now been twinned.

The twinning involves a training programme and exchange visits for WACCBIP researchers, which will help to enhance it as a regional centre of excellence for microscopy, mirroring the Oxford Brookes Bioimaging Unit.

Dr Jack Sunter, a David Fell Research Fellow in the Department of Biological and Medical Sciences, has been closely involved in the project and commented on its evolution: “I have been going to the University of Ghana for over five years now and it is amazing to see the changes over that time. There is a real buzz to the department now with lots of enthusiastic students and committed staff. It has been a real privilege to go and visit them and help train their students and researchers to use their new microscope. They can now perform world leading research into infectious pathogens which will make a real difference for people in Africa - I can’t wait to see their results.”

The University of Ghana has invested heavily in facilities at WACCBIP and their advanced light microscope matches those in the Oxford Brookes Bioimaging Unit. Similarities between the microscopes will be used to ensure rapid transfer of skills between the two academic centres.

A WACCBIP post-doctoral researcher Vincent Armah visited the Oxford Brookes Bioimaging Unit last summer, as an Oxford Brookes Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) fellow. During this time he provided insight and experience of pathogen research in Africa and learnt how to use the Oxford Brookes Bioimaging Unit microscope to its full extent.

To help further embed the microscopy skills at WACCBIP, Dr Joe McKenna in the Bioimaging Unit has visited twice to train researchers.

Professor Gordon A. Awandare who is the Director of WACCBIP, was made a visiting professor at Brookes last month (February 2019).

Dr Theresa Gwira, a group leader at WACCBIP, said: "The training that the Oxford Brookes researchers have given us is fantastic and we are excited to start using our microscope to take informative pictures of our pathogens." Dr Gwira is due to visit Oxford Brookes in November as part of the microscopy training programme.

Pictured from back to front: Dr Jack Sunter, Dr Joe McKenna, Professor Sue Vaughan and Dr Yaw Aniweh.