Brian Greenwood has spent 50 years carrying out research in Africa. Through his simple but high-quality methods for clinical studies and field trials of drugs and vaccines he reinvented field research in tropical medicine. His work has led the way in seeking holistic solutions based on cutting-edge science as well as a genuine understanding of the complex eco-system and real-life challenges unique to Africa.
For 15 years he worked in Nigeria where he helped to start a new medical school at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and here he developed his interests in malaria and epidemic meningitis. He spent the next 15 years in The Gambia where he directed the UK MRC Laboratories and where he established a multidisciplinary research programme focused on some of the most important infectious diseases prevalent in the region, including malaria, pneumonia, measles, meningitis, hepatitis and HIV2. His research has influenced national and international public health policies dealing with some of the major killers of children in Africa. He demonstrated the effectiveness of insecticide-treated nets, now the cornerstone of malaria control throughout Africa, and the potential to eliminate Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib) infection through vaccination.
He conducted some of the first trials of artemisinin-based combination therapies, now widely adopted as first-line treatment for malaria, and set-up large-scale clinical trials of vaccines against the pneumococcus, a common cause of pneumonia and meningitis in children. He also made significant contributions to malaria vaccine trials and the development of meningococcal vaccines.
Professor Greenwood has long championed medical education and development in Africa, mentoring new generations of African students, doctors and clinicians to become leaders in their fields, helping enhance the stature of African medical research among the international scientific community. In 2001 he became director of the Gates Malaria Partnership which supported the training in malaria research of 40 African PhD students and postdoctoral fellows and, in 2008, he became director of its successor programme, the Malaria Capacity Development Consortium, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports a postgraduate malaria training programme in five universities in sub-Saharan Africa.
In recent years, Brian has contributed to several landmark studies including the trials of the GlaxoSmithKline RTS,S malaria vaccine, pneumococcal vaccines in The Gambia, the evaluation of a new meningococcal vaccine in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the development of seasonal malaria chemoprevention, a method for preventing malaria in children which is now being widely deployed in countries of the Sahel and sub-Sahel where malaria transmission is restricted to a few months of the year, research that started during his time in The Gambia. Among his other projects, he is currently involved in Ebola vaccine trials in Sierra Leone.
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