EDCTP Scientific Leadership Prize

Professor Kamija Phiri has been awarded the 2023 EDCTP Scientific Leadership Prize for his outstanding research on malaria prevention and building of research capacity in Malawi.

During the Thursday plenary session at the 2023 Eleventh EDCTP Forum, fellow Malawian Dr Thomas Nyirenda, EDCTP Strategic Partnerships and Capacity Development Manager and Head of Africa Office, presented Professor Kamija Phiri with the 2023 EDCTP Scientific Leadership Prize.

Prof. Phiri holds a position at the University of Malawi but has also set up an independent research institute, the Training and Research Unit of Excellence (TRUE), in 2018. This now employs around 150 people, and focuses primarily on malaria and anaemia.

Prof. Phiri’s most notable achievement has been the development of a WHO-recommended malaria chemoprevention strategy. This emerged from studies he undertook on children who had been treated in hospital for severe anaemia. “What we found was that, even after they had been discharged, about 20% of them died.”

In particular, these children were succumbing to malaria in the months immediately after discharge: “I then developed an intervention where we would give the child an antimalarial during that vulnerable three-month period post-discharge, and found out that actually decreased their risk of dying by close to 90%.”

As well as these major public health gains, Prof. Phiri has also been committed to capacity building, training more than 20 PhD students at TRUE: “Almost all of them from the African region, and most of them from Malawi.”

Prof. Phiri became hooked on research during his medical studies, when he spent a gruelling couple of weeks attempting to interest NGOs in Blantyre in a research project he was keen to carry out: “After about a month, I got a letter back from the WHO country office in Malawi. And they said that they had funded my study. I was over the moon – this was my first ever research grant. And it was funded to the tune of $50…”

Later, it was EDCTP funding (slightly more than $50) that provided impetus to his research career, through the award of a Senior Fellowship in 2009: “EDCTP really gave me that springboard to build a big research unit, so I really owe a lot to EDCTP.”

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