WACEID: TrainingTraining and Research on Arboviruses and Zoonoses
in Nigeria and Sierra Leone (TRAIN)


Leveraging our West African Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (WAC-EID, NIAID) outstanding research leaders in West Africa, and the exceptional breadth of expertise in emerging viral diseases at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), we provide multidisciplinary training for young scientists from Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The Training and Research on Arboviruses and Zoonoses In Nigeria and Sierra Leone (TRAIN) aims to:

1. Provide general on-site training in Nigeria and Sierra Leone to Master’s/PhD students enrolled in the local graduate programs;

2. Provide specialized training at UTMB on the most advanced methods and techniques for expertise transfer to Sierra Leone and Nigeria;

3. Provide on-site research training at universities in West Africa to ensure successful local implementation of the program, which will include education of laboratory technicians/managers among others;

4. Integrate trainees into the WAC-EID’s research programs to gain hands-on experience in surveillance activities, diagnostics and data management.

Upon the completion of the TRAIN program, young scientists will play critical roles in surveillance to better understand the circulation of emerging viruses in the region, mechanisms of emergence, virus discovery, epidemic transmission, pathogenesis, and countermeasures to mitigate emerging viral threats.


Medium and Long-term Opportunities: The WACEID TRAIN program is seeking 3 Master’s or PhD-level scientists from Sierra Leone and/or Nigeria to undergo comprehensive, multidisciplinary training from 6 months up to 1 year. The initial 6-months will generally involve classroom and hands-on training at home institutions in West Africa, where selected individuals will undergo training on emerging viral pathogens, grant writing, and other relevant curriculum developed by WAC-EID Program Faculty. The second phase will involve 6-months of training at University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) with visits to New Mexico State University (NMSU) for short time periods and ongoing mentoring from TRAIN faculty. Training activities will include didactic courses, online modules, field training, molecular/virological techniques including the study of animal models and pathogenesis, biosafety training, and lab management education (listed below) which will be tailored to the individual’s specific needs.

Training Competencies
Orientation to UTMB and new employee requirements
Assessment of needs and gaps
Laboratory biosafety training program
Respirator training and fit test
Animal laboratory biosafety training program
Shipping biological agents training
Isolation, cultivation, and quantification of arboviral and zoonotic pathogens (BSL-2, ACL-2, and ABSL-2)
Techniques for isolation, cultivation, and quantification of arboviral and zoonotic pathogens (BSL-3, ACL-3, and ABSL-3)
Statistical modeling and mechanistic modeling
Select agent training
Data acquisition and management
Grant writing
Specialized techniques (e.g. next generation sequencing, etc.)

Trainees will continue to receive mentoring by TRAIN faculty for an additional 6 months after returning to their home institution in the form of one-on-one teleconferences, frequent email communication, assistance with data analysis, mini-grant funds. Upon completion of the initial training at the host institution and up to 6 months at UTMB and/or NMSU, trainees will return to their host institutions to implement follow-up research capitalizing on their newly acquired skills. Mini-grants will be available to fund their projects that are selected after competitive applications are reviewed and approved.

Short-term Opportunities: The WACEID TRAIN program is seeking two visiting scientist/trainees per from Sierra Leone or Nigeria. The junior faculty members will travel to UTMB and/or NMSU for a 1-month training term that is tailored to their needs. Options for didactic and laboratory training are described above and a very limited number, based on the short time available, will be selected. By the end of the proposed program, the scientist/trainee will have implemented all basic techniques of field sampling methods, surveillance, virology, vector biosafety and modelling in the participating laboratories, and will have trained in different areas of expertise while at the same time producing locally relevant data to be presented at international meetings and published in recognized scientific journals.