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KCCR is 25 years: Sustaining global health and research in a changing world

The Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine(KCCR), Kumasi, the 2nd largest Research Centre in Ghana is 25 years old.

This state-of-the art research facility, is situated on a 300sq meter plot of land on the South-End of Asuogya Road on KNUST Campus.

Several well-meaning individuals from both Ghana and Germany have blazed the trail during the lifetime of the institution. On the Ghanaian side, one of the personalities who worked tirelessly to see to fruition its establishment, is Prof. Dr. Dr. Sir. George Wereko-Brobby who was Dean, School of Medical Sciences (SMS).

He considered that a medical school had been established since 1975 but there was no research laboratory. Consequently, whenever medical investigations had to be carried out, samples collected had to be sent outside the country for processing. Many of the Lecturers of the SMS at that time had been trained in Germany where it was the norm to have Medical Research Centres attached to Medical Schools.

In pursuit of this objective therefore and following information received from the Vice Chancellor Prof Frank Obed Kwami, the Dean of SMS, Prof. Dr. Dr. Sir. George Wereko-Brobby put together and submitted a proposal capturing all the objectives for the establishment of such a Centre with the help of Mr. Kobby Yebo Okrah who was the School Secretary for SMS.

The German Ambassador His Excellency Dr. Christian Nakonz was the brain behind the proposal for the establishment of a Collaborative Research Centre after three African Countries had been shortlisted as sites for the construction of such a facility.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Sir. George Wereko-Brobby subsequently visited the Bernhard Nocht Institute of Tropical Medicine (BNITM) where he met Prof Bernhard Fleischer and Professor Rolf Horstmann. When they found out that Professor Wereko-Brobby and many SMS lecturers were trained in Germany they agreed to jointly carry out the idea of setting up a Research Centre in Kumasi, Ghana. A proposal was subsequently presented to the authorities of KNUST, which was approved.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Health led by Dr. Mrs. Brookman Amissah, at the time, had seen the need to set up research institutions of this kind to provide service to the Middle and the Northern Sectors of the country. The Ministry of Health Ghana therefore welcomed the idea and participated in this tripartite agreement among the MoH, Ghana; the BNITM and KNUST.

The Chancellor of KNUST, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II also approved its establishment. Thereafter, Prof. Dr. Dr. Sir. George Wereko-Brobby and Prof. Dr. Rolf Horstmann together visited the then President, Jerry John Rawlings and presented to him the proposal for a collaborative research centre of international stature. The President bought into the idea, culminating in the signing of the state agreement for the establishment of KCCR on “28.10.1997” in the Hamburg town hall during a visit of President Rawlings to Germany.

The Minister of Finance Mr Richard Kwame Peprah and the Deputy Mayor Prof. Dr. Erhard Ritterhaus signed the state agreement between the Republic of Ghana and the Free and Hanseatic State of Hamburg in Hamburg Germany. An inauguration ceremony was later performed in March 1998. At its forty-seventh sitting on 30th March 1999, the Parliament of Ghana further ratified its establishment and associated statutes governing its operation.

The objective of the centre is to provide state-of-the-art research laboratories and  to conduct research in tropical medicine, with Ghanaian and German Scientists working in close collaboration. It was set up as an autonomous unit within KNUST under a five-member Advisory Board.

The first Chairman of the Board, Prof F.O. Kwami was appointed by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. The other members of the first Board were Prof A. C. Sackeyfio Vice Chancellor, KNUST, Prof. Dr. Dr. Sir. George Wereko-Brobby who was the Dean of the School of Medical Sciences, on the Ghanaian side and Prof Dr Bernhard Fleischer (Director, BNITM) and Prof Dr Rolf Horstmann (Chairperson of Research in the Tropics, BNITM) on the German side.

The current Advisory Board comprise the Chairman Prof J.S.K Ayim (a former KNUST Vice-Chancellor), Prof Mrs Rita Akosua Dickson (Current KNUST Vice-Chancellor), Prof Daniel Ansong (Dean School of Medicine and Dentistry), Dr Baffour Awuah (Representative from Ministry of Health), Prof Juergen May (Chair of BNITM) and Dr Denise Dekker (Representative BNITM). The immense contributions of all past Members who made invaluable contributions to the progress and trajectory of development of KCCR’s and promoted the activities of the Centre with much commitment and keen interest are duly acknowledged.

KNUST was quick to respond and provided a 300m2 parcel of land (on the current site) at the South-end of Asuogya Road on KNUST campus and a sod-cutting ceremony for commencement of construction work was performed in May 2001. Sponsorship from the Federal Republic of Germany, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the Volkswagen Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.

At a big event on 14th November  2003, the KCCR buildings at its present site were inaugurated. The Centre expanded to include a cold house in 2016 and an entomology wing in 2020. The latest addition is an outbreak preparedness block that will be commissioned at its 25th Anniversary Celebration on the 29th November, 2022.

In 2019, off-site laboratories were established at Agogo Presbyterian Hospital in the Ashanti Region and  St. Francis Xavier Catholic Hospital in Assin Fosu, Central Region.  In early 2022, a new off-site laboratory was set up at St Martin’s Hospital (Agroyesum) also in the Ashanti region.

Following introduction of the Collegiate System at the KNUST, KCCR was integrated as a Research Centre under the College of Health Sciences. Currently KCCR employs 34 Administrative staff, has 318 Research Staff and hosts 13 Research Units comprising Skin Neglected Tropical Diseases & Buruli ulcer, Molecular Diagnostics, Infection Immunology, One Health Virology, One Health Bacteriology, Filariasis and Onchocerciasis, Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Malaria and Entomology, Vector Biology, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Infection & Non-Communicable Diseases, Clinical Research, Global Health & Infectious disease.

Since its inception, KCCR has had 7 Directors/Scientific Directors, 4 Deputy Directors and 3 Administrators/Head of Administration who have played varied roles in the realization of the Research Centre’s vision.

KCCR can boast of several achievements in research particularly in the field of Neglected Tropical Diseases (e.g Buruli ulcer and Filariasis), Emerging Infectious Diseases (Corona viruses, Zoonotic diseases), Malaria, Tuberculosis and Antimicrobial Resistance.

The establishment of KCCR has resulted in the academic training of Doctoral and Master’s graduates and the provision of the country’s work force particularly in the tertiary institutions. KCCR is now a preferred destination for many Science undergraduates and graduates who require laboratory experience that otherwise is available in the Global North.

COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the whole world. KNUST scientists working at KCCR, made profound contribution towards the COVID-19 control strategy in Ghana. KCCR is a key partner to the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health. Right from the outset, KCCR Scientists established COVID-19 testing and successfully gained recognition as the second largest laboratory providing COVID-19 tests for 13 out of 16 regions (11.9 million people) in Ghana to guide the public health response in Ghana

KCCR has provided technical expertise in setting up many COVID-19 laboratories. The laboratories supported included Pong Tamale Veterinary Services Lab, Tamale Public Health Reference Laboratories, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi, Anglogold Hospital in Obuasi, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Kumasi, Veterinary Services Department (VSD), Kumasi Public Health Reference Laboratory, KNUST Hospital, Bekwai Municipal Hospital, Konongo Government Hospital, Asante Mampong District Hospital, Nkawie-Toaso Government Hospital, Kenyasi Health Centre Ahafo, New Abirim Government Hospital in the Eastern Region and Laboratories in the Western North Region.

25 years on, KCCR maintains a positive outlook for the future and seeks to maintain its enviable role as a major National Research Centre and to provide data to improve the wellbeing of Ghanaians through collaborative efforts.

The Theme for the anniversary is “25 years of Research for Life: Sustaining Global health and Research in our Changing World”.

Going into the future, we have prepared our minds as a Research Centre to embrace new disease challenges in our world due to factors such as increase in population, increase and ease in world travel, increase in contact with animals/birds, increase in civil disturbances, terrorist threats and many unknown others.

KCCR seeks to be a Centre of Excellence for Disease Outbreaks, Emerging viruses, One Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Malaria, TB  and HIV providing the next generation of scientists with the needed skills to address the current and future challenges.

KCCR will scale up its training to produce highly skilled, competitive staff to meet the needs of the Country and continue in the pursuit of partnerships and multidisciplinary research.

The Centre will train its young Scientists into leadership in Science thus keeping KNUST as the leading Science University in Ghana and Africa.

KCCR will maintain its facilities and seek opportunity to introduce the next generation technology providing the right environment in building the critical mass of highly talented Scientists to address our developmental needs.

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Abdullah Anaman
Abdullah Anamanhttps://aanaman.me
I am a highly competent IT professional with a proven track record in designing websites, building apps etc. I have strong technical skills as well as excellent interpersonal skills, enabling me to interact with a wide range of clients.
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