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ISP News 2021

ISP Alumnus Prof Collen Masimirembwa

ISP Alumnus Prof Collen Masimirembwa has been awarded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Calestous Juma Science Leadership Fellowship!

The award of 1 million USD over a 5-year period will enable Collen to promote drug and diagnostics innovation across Africa through centres of excellence in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria, using Pharmacogenomics as a flagship program.

Prof Collen says:

As a long time ISP Fellow, from my PhD studies, through to over 10 years of research & training support, I wish to thank ISP which obviously contributed to the recognition of the work we do here at AiBST over the years.”

Prof Collen founded the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) in 2002. At the time, Prof Collen was working for a leading global pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in Sweden as a Principal Scientist.

In the beginning AiBST organized courses on the science and technology of drug discovery and development. The courses generated tremendous interest among African scientists resulting in forming the African Society for Drug Metabolism and Development and the African Pharmacogenomics Consortium.

With support from pharmaceutical companies and funding organizations, AiBST established state-of- the-art biomedical research laboratories and a Phase I Clinical Trial Unit in Harare, Zimbabwe. The AiBST biomedical laboratory was officially opened in 2005 by the Zimbabwean Minster of Science and Technology Development. AiBST has also established satellite laboratories, one at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and another at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. During the Covid-19 pandemic, AiBST is a designated SARS-CoV-2 testing laboratory in Zimbabwe.

Today AiBST has a postgraduate training program at Masters and PhD level to produce the next generation of African biomedical scientists.

AiBST has established itself as both a pioneer and champion in the fields of Genomic and Pharmaceutical Medicine, Forensic Science and Molecular Diagnostics.

One of the discoveries Prof Collen and his group have made is that a genetic variance very common for African people, explains why Africans show more side effects to anti-HIV-drugs.

Prof Collen was an ISP funded sandwich PhD at Karolinska Institute. ISP has also supported his organization AiBST from 2008. AiBST is now self-sufficent and ISP support has been phased-out.

Thank you, Collen, for being part of the ISP family! We are looking forward to hear more about your and AiBST´s groundbreaking research in the future.

Read more about AiBST (African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology) and

*Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) launched the Calestous Juma Fellowship program earlier this year to meet the need for strong science leadership in communities around the world.

ISP annual report for 2020

June 23, 2021

The ISP 2020 Annual Report including appendices are now available.

Read the short version in Summary of 2020 Annual Report.

Key results for 2020:

  • Support to 40 research groups and 16 scientific networks, together graduating 93 PhD (37% women) and 234 MSc students (43% women).
  • Disseminating more than 951 scientific papers as publications or at conferences.
  • Through ISP’s capacity building work and support to research of relevance to development challenges, ISP partners are contributing to several of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Gender Equality Grants constitute a successful strategy with the potential to attract more of women students to basic sciences on a longer term.

Picture: ISP staff Carla Puglia and Ernst van Groningen with staff and students (mostly women) from the ISP supported group in physics (IPPS MYA:01) at University of Mandalay, Myanmar in January 2020.

Two new members in ISP Board

ISP welcomes HE Prof Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (Former President of the Republic of Mauritius) and Prof Tom Britton (Dept of Mathematics, Stockholm University, Sweden) as new ISP Board members.

At the same time ISP would like to express its sincere gratitude to the two outgoing Board members HE Prof Mohamed Gharib Bilal (Former Vice President of Tanzania) and Prof Peter Brzezinski (Stockholm University, Sweden) for the time served in the ISP Board.

Prof Gurib-Fakim, who are you?

- I am a Chemist by training and have a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Exeter, UK. I have spent my academic career at the University of Mauritius. As the first woman Professor, I have served as Dean of the Faculty of Science, Deputy Vice Chancellor.

During my academic days, I worked on Herbal medicine and Traditional knowledge systems, creating the first database on the IKS (Indigenous Knowledge Systems) of my country and the surrounding region. I also coedited the first African Herbal Pharmacopoeia. I have published several scientific papers, books and book chapters both locally and internationally. After retiring from my academic position I translated my research data into an enterprise with a vision to produce innovative ingredients for industry in the pharma, cosmetic and food sectors. Finally in 2014, I was voted as the first ever female president of the Republic of Mauritius until 2018.

Why did you want to work with ISP?

- I was appointed on the Reference Group for Chemistry in 2008 until 2014. I am aware of the running of this group and also on the vision and mission of the ISP. It is a commendable effort on behalf of the Swedish Government.

What are your expectations of this work?

- ISP has been going on for several decades and has established itself as a credible partner for many universities/institutions in the developing world and focus countries of Sweden. I think ISP will keep consolidating its efforts in the promotion of the culture of science which is badly needed and especially if we are to attain the Sustainable Development Goals.

Something you would like to add?

- Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of the need for a strong science base especially in policy making. I hope that one of the priority areas for ISP will be to help promote science communication.

Thank you for your time, Prof Gurib-Fakim!

Prof Britton, who are you?

- I´m a Professor in Mathematical statistics and also the Dean of Mathematics-Physics Division at Stockholm University, Sweden. My main research interest is infectious disease modelling and data analysis.

Why did you want to work with ISP?

- I have a strong interest improve higher education and research in low and lower-middle income countries. I have been in the ISP reference group for Mathematics for about 15 years. I have also supervised four PhD students within ISP.

What are your expectations of this work?

- It will be interesting to see ISP activities from a different perspective.

Something you would like to add?

- A problem I have noted are the two funding sources: ISP Core programme and the Sida bilateral research programs. It would be good if these were better "connected".

Thank you for your time, Prof Britton!

List of all ISP Board members

ANders, Hugo and maria

In the first sentence of his inaugural speech Vice-Chancellor Anders Hagfeldt mentioned his ISP supported PhD students Hugo and Maria from Peru. But what are Maria and Hugo doing today? What do they think about Uppsala University´s new Vice-Chancellor and about ISP?

Prof Hugo Alarcón Cavero

Prof María Quintana

Prof María Quintana, what do you do today?

- After finishing my postdoc with Anders´ solar cells group, I came back to my country, Peru. I started working at my former university, National University of Engineering, as researcher and teacher. I got a position as Professor teaching thermodynamics.

My research on renewable energy allowed me to obtain a new position in another university, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, where I am the Director of Studies of Environmental Engineering.

I work in both universities researching and teaching.

What kind of research do you conduct?

- My research group is “Urpunano”, quechua word that means “Make nano”. I'm advisor of master and doctoral students, who works on dye solar cells, light emitting diodes and in the last years making graphene for environmental applications.

What did ISP support mean to you as a PhD student?

- It was crucial. Without the support of ISP I couldn’t have started my PhD studies. In my country, it was so difficult get a scholarship for doctoral studies, specially being a married woman with children.

Some comments about Prof Anders Hagfeldt as your supervisor?

- He is an extremely talented professional and an amazing person. He always had great input to help my work, but with the right words to make it easy to understand from the very first explanation. He was always really helpful and willing to listen when the time was there, and I couldn't be more grateful for all the help he gave me.

Something you would like to add?

- I think ISP, gave me the opportunity to go to Sweden to start my PhD studies, something I could not have done in my country at that moment. I'm sure there are many foreign students that took this opportunity ISP was giving, and now are working in their own countries.

I appreciate a lot the help Pravina and Hossein (ISP staff; editor´s note) gave me every time I went to Sweden.

I think If I went to another country to do my doctoral studies I might have failed or maybe I wouldn't have finished. In Sweden, not only did I learn about science, I learned about equality, about being environmentally conscious, about helping others in disadvantage, and about to sharing knowledge with everybody, just like Anders Hagfeldt did.

Thank you for your time, Prof Quintana!

Prof Hugo Alarcón Cavero, what do you do today?

- I am a principal professor of the National University of Engineering in the Department of Chemistry of Faculty of Science, where I give lectures about physicochemistry and materials science at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Furthermore, I am the leader of GISMA (Synthesis research of advanced materials) group which are made up by Master and Doctoral students. 

What kind of research do you conduct?

- Nowadays, my research is focused on the synthesis of novelty materials, with particular focus on metallic oxides by electrochemical methods, Sol-gel, dip coating among other techniques for applications in: water treatment by electrochemical methods, hydrogen generation by water splitting and reduction of CO2 for the generation of alcohols.

What did ISP support mean to you as a PhD student?

- The support given by ISP was very important and it meant for me a take off at a professional level, especially as a researcher. Indeed, it allowed me to know a different way of conducting a research, being part of a group in Uppsala with Prof. Anders was incredible because I was able to establish direct communication with high level researchers, with which I gained a lot of experience with their knowledge as well as experience with the lab equipment. On another side, an important aspect was the social part that allowed me to know a different country with a different culture to generate good friends. 

Some comments about Prof Anders Hagfeldt as your supervisor?

- Prof. Anders, was and continues to be a good person and an excellent researcher, he was always attentive to the discussions and needs to carry out the project in such a way as to culminate with the objectives set in the research project. Besides, I always had the best attention to any detail that I needed for being a foreign student guiding me in the courses that I could take in such a way to efficiently complete my studies. I am very grateful to both Prof. Anders and the research group for the way I was treated academically and personally.

Something you would like to add?

Unfortunately, the support provided by ISP was cut short in 2007, which led to the culmination of the academic exchange that was held. Perhaps it could be resumed in some way through some agreements that allow students from Peru to access in some way to carry out exchange studies or short stays.

Thank you for your time, Prof Alarcón Cavero!

Last modified: 2022-09-12