Kenyan Scientist Wins Top Scientific Prize


A Kenyan scientist, Dr Faith Osier, has been awarded one of the most prestigious prizes for African Science. The Royal Society Pfizer prize is awarded annually to a young scientist based in Africa, and recognises research scientists making innovative contributions to the biological sciences, including basic medical science.

On August 5, 2014, the Royal Society announced that the 2014 Royal Society Pfizer prize was to be awarded to KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme scientist Dr Faith Osier, for her research on understanding the mechanisms of immunity to malaria infection in man. Dr Osier leads a team of young researchers at the programme to understand how children living in areas with a high malaria infection rate develop immunity to the disease. This work is important in contributing to the search for malaria vaccines.

Dr Osier was also recently awarded the prestigious African Research Leader Award from the UK Medical Research Council (MRC)/Department for International Development (DfID). She joined the programme in 1998 and immediately became intrigued in developing a better understanding of how people, children in particular, could develop immunity to malaria. Dr Osier has developed strong collaborations in this work with the Burnet Institute in Australia and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK.

On hearing of the award, Dr Osier said, "I am delighted and excited by the Royal Society Pfizer prize award, which I see as an award to my whole research team. It is our dream to build strong science in Africa which contributes to solving Africa’s major health problems."

Professor Solomon Mpoke, Director of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) said, "We congratulate Dr Osier on this outstanding achievement, which shows the strength of Kenyan science. The work of Dr Osier and a new generation of Kenyan researchers like her is critical to driving development in Kenya and the wider region."

Professor Berhanu Abegaz, Director of the African Academy of Sciences concurred with Professor Mpoke saying, "This is wonderful news. The Royal Society is one of the world’s most prestigious scientific institutions and the award of this prize is a tremendous boost to Kenyan and African science."

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Dr Osier is supported by fellowships from the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council (MRC) and is an honorary research fellow at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine of the University of Oxford, and at the Burnet Institute.

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The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) is a state corporation established through the Science and Technology (Amendment) Act of 1979, as the national body responsible for carrying out health research in Kenya. Since its inception, KEMRI has developed a critical mass of scientists and technical personnel, to enable it mount a competitive research infrastructure to rank as a leading centre of excellence in health research both in Africa as well as globally.

The KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme is a major research programme established in 1989 as a partnership between KEMRI, the University of Oxford and the Wellcome Trust. It is recognised internationally for its research on the major causes of ill health in Kenya and in Africa and for its work in promoting the development of leadership in African Science.

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is the major UK Government body supporting medical research.The heart of the MRC’s mission is to improve human health through world-class medical research. To achieve this, it support’s research "across the entire spectrum of medical sciences, in universities and hospitals, in the UK, and at a number of units in Africa."

The University of Oxford is one of the world’s leading universities, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of global health. A world leader in medical science and health-related research, Oxford works in partnership with institutions around the globe to investigate, 'on the ground', some of the 21st century's leading causes of disease and death, and to develop health training and infrastructure.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease.

The Burnet Institute is a major research institute whose mission is to achieve better health for poor and vulnerable communities in Australia and internationally through research, education and public health.