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Dr Martin Welch awarded GCRF Networking Grant

last modified Apr 23, 2018 01:48 PM
Dr Martin Welch, and his collaborator Dr Anthony Sifuna, have been awarded a GCRF Networking Grant.

Dr Martin Welch, and his collaborator Dr Anthony Sifuna from the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), Kenya, have been awarded an Academy of Medical Sciences’ Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Networking Grant for their project Harnessing whole genome sequencing to strengthen sub-typing and antibiotic resistance monitoring of Escherichia coli in developing countries.

Antibiotic resistance fueled through the indiscriminate use of antibiotics for medicinal and agricultural purposes has become a major public health threat worldwide, with the situation dire in developing countries. Tracking the genetic basis of antibiotic resistance is essential in combating this global issue, as it allows detection, identification and characterisation of drug-resistant microorganisms and the monitoring of their emergence and spread. A potentially transformative technology that could help with genetic tracking is whole-genome sequencing (WGS). This technology, however, is not easily accessible to researchers in Africa where there is an urgent need to monitor novel antibiotic resistance mechanisms. Through the GCRF Networking Grant, Dr Sifuna will train under Dr Welch in our Department to learn how to analyse WGS data, focusing on multi-antibiotic-resistant bacteria from the river Isiukhu that are known to be associated with localised disease outbreaks. Following this, the Networking Grant will enable a 2-day conference and 5-day training workshop on utilising WGS for understanding antibiotic resistance to be held in Kenya for delegates from MMUST, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kenya), the Medical Research Council Unit (The Gambia), the University of Malawai (Malawai), and the University of Pretoria (South Africa). The skills required to analyse and interpret sequencing data within a biological context that will be gained and shared through this project are essential if scientists in Africa are to exploit WGS technologies in the future. This is especially relevant today given that the cost of these technologies is decreasing, bringing real time WGS “in the field” nearer to reality.


The GCRF supports cutting-edge research addressing global issues faced by developing countries, and is administered through 17 delivery partners including the Research Councils, the UK National Academies, the UK Space Agency and funding bodies. The GCRF’s inaugural Networking Grants aim to allow researchers from developing countries and the UK to forge new links and to hold networking events to generate innovative and interdisciplinary research ideas.


Sunset over Africa.

Credit: University of Cambridge


Rhys Grant

Publication Date

31 January 2018