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Scientists graduate from IAVI Leadership Programme

Scientists graduate from IAVI Leadership Programme

Three Aurum scientists have graduated from the inaugural cohort of the IAVI ADVANCE Leadership Development Programme (LDP).

Aurum’s Dr William Brumskine: Rustenburg Clinical Research Site Leader, and Senior Scientists Drs Pholo Maenetje and Mandla Mlotshwa were part of the programme to develop a critical mass of promising scientific leaders uniquely equipped to advance the field for next-generation AIDS vaccine development in Africa and India.

African scientists

Launched in July 2021, LDP is part of the capacity strengthening initiatives for Africa and India under the ADVANCE (Accelerate the Development of Vaccines and New Technologies to Combat the AIDS Epidemic) programme. ADVANCE is a 10-year cooperative agreement with USAID, through PEPFAR. Aurum is one of the Clinical Research Centers which is part of the ADVANCE network. Through lectures and seminar series provided by a team of global experts, the programme seeks to position African scientists to play meaningful roles in setting research agenda in HIV biomedical prevention research as well as other disease areas.

“This initiative is a critical part of the long-term sustainable growth of IAVI’s Clinical Research Center partner institutions and seeks to support their growth into more self-reliant, versatile centres for critically important research including HIV vaccine research and development and training,” said Dr Daniel Ochiel: Senior Director and Research Capacity Strengthening Lead at IAVI.

The year-long programme was designed to ensure that participants get a well-rounded introduction to HIV vaccine development, soft skill trainings in leadership, grantsmanship training, and mentorship from lead experts in different areas of research emphasis. The programme provides strategic value in that it formalises leadership training and skills acquisition using a comprehensive curriculum with the following module areas: epidemiology, clinical trials and operations, clinical and basic science, an immunology mini-course, community engagement and social and behavioural research, personalised mentorship from renown scientists, grant writing training, soft skills training, research ethics, communication skills, and data analysis and tools, Participants also develop individual career plans that are reviewed regularly with their mentors, against set goals.

Enhance work

Brumskine said the programme provided opportunities for them to engage with the leading minds in basic science research from prominent programmes world-wide. "Excellent patient care requires diligent application of the principles of evidence-based medicine. Our task is to ensure generation of accurate data that informs policy and will result in the implementation of best practices on the front lines. The LDP has assisted young, early phase scientists to establish Mentor mentee relationships with thought leaders in the field and embraces the idea that skills transfer is urgently required and necessary for the future of Healthcare delivery in our communities," he said. 

The LDP curriculum included seminars, virtual lectures, training workshops in collaboration with external partners, was fully implemented for the initial cohort of 30 participants. The implementation team jointly worked in partnership with IAS, the African Research Excellence Fund (AREF), and Women Lift Health strengthen capacity of participants from Africa and India.

Stronger scientific networks

The programme commenced following a needs assessment that involved input from Clinical Research Center leaders to identify barriers inhibiting the advancement of early career fellows to become independent scientists within the ADVANCE partner network. The assessment identified the need for stronger scientific networks and worldwide linkages by early career scientists, a lack of a critical mass of research scientist within the ADVANCE partner network, a need for mentorship, a need of prioritisation skills to enable them to meet their demanding workloads, a need to engage with scientists at multiple levels, and the need to develop technical scientific and soft skills.

In 2023 the programme will enrol its second cohort from the ADVANCE partner network and implement capacity strengthening jointly with external partners. This programme seeks to nurture the next generation of leaders to attain and retain critical mass of scientists ensuring sustainability of ADVANCE partner network. 



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