Last week Dr. Jagger Harvey visited JIC from the one of a kind bioscience hub BecA (Biosciences for East and Central Africa). Jagger is half American, half Haitian and witnessed the massive disparity of the two countries throughout his youth. This inspired him to work with developing countries and use his skills to tackle hunger and poverty. However, instead of diving straight into applied sciences he decided to get a fundamental grounding in biosciences, first receiving his PhD from UC Davis. He then moved to The Sainsbury Laboratory, here in Norwich, to complete a postdoc with David Balcombe.
When Jagger joined the BecA Hub just 5 years ago he was one of three scientists on a small corridor of offices. Now BecA accommodates and funds 40 researchers spanning 18 countries of Africa as well as many more visiting scientists from all over the world.
BecA is a shared agricultural research and biosciences platform that exists to increase access to affordable, world-class research facilities. The development of the facility has been project-driven. For example, Jagger began working with an international team on Aflatoxins – fungal produced Mycotoxins which are deadly in high doses. Aflatoxins are a big problem in Maize production across Kenya and Tanzania, especially if the kernels are not dried properly once harvested. With a massive injection of funds from the Australian government a platform for mycotoxin diagnostics was set up to facilitate this project. Along with a nutritional analysis platform which can provide full nutritional profiling of foods this facility now provides an invaluable resource for the whole region.
An important part of the hub is to provide quality training and support for scientists from all 18 countries. It has become an extremely successful and can have up to 1700 applications for 30 places available on a training course. The Hub also facilitates lasting collaborations between African scientists and internationally. One way that these collaborations are brought together is through connections workshops, which anyone can apply to attend if you have a project idea – something to keep it in mind if you would like to be part of this inspirational future for African science.
If you are interested in more information, you can find the BecA website here: http://hub.africabiosciences.org/
All images courtesy of africabiosciences.org
By Tilly Eldridge, a final year PhD student in the lab of Enrico Coen