Professor Alfred Traoré - Coordinator of R.A.Biotech

Meet Professor Alfred Traoré, coordinator of the ISP supported West African Biotechnology Network – R.A.Biotech.

Professor Traoré is coordinating the network R.A.Biotech from the “Research Center for Biological, Alimentary and Nutritional Sciences” (CRSBAN) located at University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The R.A.Biotech network started in 2002 with funding from the World Bank. The idea was to establish a regional training center to build competences in biotechnology and food and nutritional sciences at the MSc and PhD level in Africa, to address the staff shortage in many African universities. With the research the networks also aims to improve the nutritional status of the sub-Saharan African population, with special emphasis on vulnerable groups such as infants, pregnant women and elderlies.  

Besides Burkina Faso, members of the network are universities, institutes and international institutions in Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. The activities are now also extended to universities in Central African countries, such as Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Gabon. The network operates through providing MSc and PhD training for regional students at the CSRBAN research center consisting of four laboratories in:

  • microbiology and microbial biotechnology
  • molecular biology, epidemiology of bacteria and virus implicated in food management
  • biochemistry and applied immunology and,
  • biotechnology, food and nutritional sciences.

The network normally receives in total around 150-200 applications and select around 50 candidates each year. In addition to the postgraduate training R.A.Biotech are giving out around 20 fellowships per year to encourage the best student of the program. It is fellowships for regional travels or travel to Northern laboratories for two to three months.  ISP started to support the network in 2008.   

- Thanks to ISP we have realized good training in nutrition. Before we did not have a nutrition program. When we got the funding from ISP we started a MSc program in nutrition and then we continued with PhD education in that area. The funding is used for mobility of the students between universities, and exchange program of staff and professors, both regional and North-South collaboration and for acquiring some laboratory equipment and reagents.  

The network stands out among ISP supported chemistry groups and networks in terms of producing PhD graduates. During the granting period 2008-2013 R.A.Biotech graduated more than 28 PhD’s alone. The CRSBAN research training center is also used by the government as a center of reference regarding nutritional issues. In addition, it functions as a center of control, involved in developing technology for testing and executing the testing for instance cereal flower. The center controls the biological aspect of the cereal based-products to make sure they are safe.

Professor Traoré believes that the main challenge of the network is to make use of the research results coming from all of the graduates.

- We get a lot of research results and we train a lot of people, but the challenge is to use the research result. We are happy that some of our students get employment within the industry but we also need the research to reach, and be used by, the population. We also need to educate academic staff to guide and advice policy makers better in different member countries.

May 2016