Imperial College London

'Great potential for collaboration', says Vice President ahead of trip to Africa


Dr Johannes Lischner

Dr Johannes Lischner and material scientists from the University of Yaounde, Cameroon

Imperial College London has dozens of scientists working across Africa in a diverse range of health and environmental research programmes.

Research projects are taking place in countries including South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Zambia and Uganda into global challenges such as health, infrastructure and nutrition.

This week, Imperial’s Vice President (International) Professor Maggie Dallman is visiting Ghana and Kenya to strengthen research ties and meet colleagues from partner institutions.

Professor Dallman said: “Imperial's excellence arises from attracting talented people and working with leading institutions from across many different regions.

“Ghana and Kenya are abundant with innovation and great potential for collaboration.

“Any university serious about its future would be foolish to ignore the potential for collaboration. Academics in both countries are at the heart of a global urban health network that could help reduce inequalities in healthcare for billions of city-dwellers.”

From solar cells to red blood cells, here are some of the exciting research collaborations between Imperial and partners in Africa:

Fighting Malaria

Professor Kathryn Maitland
Professor Kathryn Maitland

Professor Kathryn Maitland is Director of Imperial’s Centre of African Research and Engagement (ICCARE) at the Institute of Global Health Innovation, and has been based in Kenya for the last 15 years.

Her research group are investigating severe malaria, bacterial sepsis and severe malnutrition in children.

Her team conducted the largest trial of critically ill children ever undertaken in Africa. This research went on to win the prestigious BMJ Research Paper of the Year award and led to changes in management guidelines.

In 2018 Professor Maitland is leading a group of top malaria and clinical trials experts to improve outcomes for African children with severe malaria.

Global Urban Health Network

Accra, Ghana
Imperial researchers are collaborating on a major health project with researchers in Accra, Ghana

Academics in Ghana and Kenya are working on a major global project with Imperial that could help reduce inequalities in healthcare for billions of city-dwellers.

Over the course of the four-year project, the research teams will gather evidence on issues affecting the health of people in cities such as Accra, Tamale, and London, and work with policymakers to develop evidence-based policies for improving the health of city dwellers.

In the Ghanaian capital Accra, efforts are being made to improve the standard of housing.

The new global project will see teams use computer modelling to test large-scale policies, such as safe low-income housing or large public transport systems, to see whether they are likely to be successful, and to unearth unintended consequences.

Imperial academics are working with Professor Samuel AgyeiMensah, from the University of Ghana on the project.

Sustainable energy

Dr Johannes Lischner
Dr Johannes Lischner with a researcher in Cameroon

Earlier this year Dr Johannes Lischner, from the Department of Materials, visited Cameroon to develop a new way of producing solar cells.

Working with the University of Yaounde, Dr Lischner is studying new types of solar cells involving standard semiconductors, like silicon, and graphene.

Currently, solar cells are produced using semiconductors and metals.

However, they are less efficient because metals absorb most of the light before it arrives at the contact.

This problem can be overcome by using graphene, a metallic material that is only one atom thick.

The solar cells are created simply by placing a single layer of graphene on a semiconductor.

This could potentially lead to cheaper and more efficient solar cells.

Solving malnutrition

Professor Gary Frost
Professor Gary Frost

Malnutrition contributes to nearly half of all deaths in children under five and is a major problem in developing countries.

Imperial’s Professor Gary Frost is investigating whether supporting the gut microbiota can help to combat both malnutrition and over eating.

The traditional approach to treat malnutrition is to feed patients milk based products, but these products don’t feed the microbiota in the colon as they are absorbed further up the digestive system.

Legumes however are a common food that can fuel and diversify the gut microbiota and reach the colon.

Professor Frost carried out a pilot study in Kenya which showed for the first time that feeding legumes to malnourished children had positive effects on the microbiota.

Red blood cells

Professor Thomas Williams is based at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Collaborative Programme in Kilifi, Kenya.

His team are investigating the positive and negative health consequences of a range of genetic disorders, with a particular focus on disorders affecting red blood cells.

Current projects include a study following 16,000 children from birth in Kilifi District.

They are also carrying out a trial of the drug hydroxyurea as a potential treatment in African children with sickle cell disease.


Stephen Johns

Stephen Johns
Communications and Public Affairs

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Africa, Strategy-collaboration, International
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