Africa Centre of Excellence for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), at the University of Ghana (ACE-NCDs)

The Africa Centre of Excellence for Non-communicable Diseases (ACE-NCDs) is an interdisciplinary centre, based at the University of Ghana, that aims to address Africa’s complex burden of NCDs through interdisciplinary research.

The centre brings together researchers from the basic sciences, medical and health sciences, and social sciences and humanities from the University of Ghana (UG) and 17 universities in Africa, Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East.

Supported by an operational grant from ARUA’s centres of excellence initiative and the University of Ghana, the centre has four objectives:

Objective 1: Secure competitive grants to conduct multidisciplinary research on the major NCDs (cardiovascular diseases (CVD), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes), neglected NCDs (sickle cell disease, neurodegenerative conditions), and co-morbid conditions interacting with NCDs (e.g depression and common mental health disorders, maternal and reproductive health conditions, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis). Our areas of focus will include epidemiological surveillance, population level risk reduction, drug discovery/safety/efficacy, access to medicines, medical treatment and management (including palliative care), medical pluralism, self-care, social protection and health systems strengthening.

Objective 2: Establish and maintain an observatory on NCD research, practice and policy in Africa, that tracks and documents research, practice and policy trends on a virtual platform for African and global NCD communities

Objective 3: Train and mentor African doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers and early career researchers across the centre’s range of disciplines.

Objective 4: Champion NCD advocacy for Africa by engaging national, regional and global research, practice, policy and lay communities with evidence for action.

Why Africa needs a Centre of Excellence on NCDs

Africa’s NCD burden is a multi-faceted and multi-institutional problem, encompassing a blend of epidemiological, demographic, health systems, infrastructural, economic, political and structural challenges. These challenges require similarly complex interventions and solutions. There is a strong consensus that there is an urgent need for African countries to improve their basic scientific research capabilities, epidemiological surveillance systems and to develop practical, sustainable, culturally appropriate and cost-effective NCD interventions that lower risk at population levels and reduce levels of morbidity and mortality among individuals living with NCDs and co-morbid conditions. For many countries, comprehensive research is needed to develop practical and sustainable interventions to tackle the major NCDs, within the context of competing health systems priorities and complex resource challenges. Countries also need to learn from emerging models of practice, intervention and policy implementation within and outside the continent. A major part of the future challenge is training competent cohorts of critical interdisciplinary researchers to provide the evidence base for practice, interventions and policies.

The University of Ghana team is uniquely placed to facilitate a “hub and spoke model” of regional and global NCD research collaboration due to their track record and capacity building philosophy. The collective interdisciplinary research effort of the team and their regional and global partners spans over 15 years, focuses on national and regional NCD problems, demonstrates a track record of attracting competitive grants from global funders and has yielded insightful results and influential publications. The team is interdisciplinary, intergenerational and gender sensitive, thus providing a model of training and capacity building that ensures equity, continuity and sustainability along the lines proposed in regional discussions on the future of research intensive universities in Africa.

ACE-NCDs Administration and selected International Advisory and Research Board (IARB) Members

Position Name Discipline: Research interests/focus
Director Prof Michael Wilson1 Biological Sciences: Diseases prevention and control.
Deputy Director Dr Dorcas Osei-Safo1 Chemistry: Isolation/characterization of natural products
Basic Sciences* Dr Kwaku Kyeremeh1 Chemistry: Microbial natural products, molecular biology
Medical/Health Sciences* Prof Richard Adanu1 Medicine/Public Health: Reproductive & maternal health
Medical/Health Sciences* Dr Patrick Amoateng1 Pharmacology: Neuropharmacology, Ethnopharmacology
Medical/Health Sciences* Prof Regina Appiah-Opong1 Pathology: Pharmacokinetics:drug-herb-food interactions
Social Sciences/Humanities* Prof Ama de-Graft Aikins1 Psychology: Chronic disease experiences and care
IARB Member Prof Charles Agyemang2 Public Health: NCD epidemiology, African migrant health
IARB Member Prof Ernestina Coast3 Anthropology/Demography: Sexual & reproductive health
IARB Member Prof Marcel Jaspars4 Chemistry
IARB Member Prof Alison Smith5 Plant metabolism: combining engineering with biology
IARB Member Prof Nigel Unwin5 Medicine/Public Health: NCD epidemiology

*Lead scientists of Units; 1University of Ghana; 2University of Amsterdam; 3London School of Economics and Political Science; 4University of Aberdeen; 5University of Cambridge