Africa’s scientists set out their COVID-19 research priorities
July 8, 2020

Former Fogarty grantee leads COVID-19 genomics work in Africa

Dr. Christian Happi is director of the African Centre of Excellence for the Genomics of Infectious Disease, and professor of molecular biology and genomics at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria. A leading genomic sequencing expert, Happi is also a visiting scientist at Harvard University. His first NIH grant was a Fogarty International Research Collaboration Award (FIRCA) and he is now a Principal Investigator on the NIH’s Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) project. He has won numerous honors for his accomplishments, including the 2019 African Prize from the Human Genome Organization.

In 2008, I was promoted to Principal Investigator when the grant was renewed. This experience helped me become an independent investigator and further strengthened my capacity and abilities to manage research projects.

You initially studied malaria. Why was that?

It was a childhood dream for me to solve malaria, since I had multiple malaria episodes growing up. I made significant breakthroughs – from unravelling molecular markers of resistance to many antimalarial drugs, to using my genomics data to influence evidence-based antimalaria drug policy change in Nigeria. More importantly, building capacity on the African continent in the field of malaria molecular biology was most rewarding, because I can see today that many of the young African scientists that we trained are now among the leaders of malaria research across the continent.