A4NH / East Africa / Food Safety / ILRI

Kenyan bioinformatics student awarded fellowship for Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program

George Tinega, BecA-ILRI research fellowGeorge Tinega, a Kenyan bioinformatics and molecular biology graduate student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, has been selected as a 2013 Fellow for the Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (LEAP) of the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program.

The Borlaug LEAP Fellowship honours Nobel Laureate Norman E. Borlaug who has been hailed as the father of the Green Revolution.

The fellowship supports engaging a mentor at a United States university and at a CGIAR centre to support and enhance the thesis research and mentoring experience.

The Borlaug LEAP Fellowship is awarded to only a few outstanding graduate students from developing countries who show strong scientific and leadership potential, have a well-coordinated proposal between their home university, a United States university mentor and the CGIAR mentor, and whose research is related to a strong research and support project within the host country.

Tinega’s research project, “Molecular characterization of Salmonella isolates obtained from Wambizzi pig abattoir in Kampala, Uganda”, will use DNA-related techniques to identify Salmonella strains isolated from pork products and assess the usefulness of these techniques in epidemiological analysis and control of this important food-borne pathogen.

The use of more accurate methods for detecting Salmonella in pigs and pork products can improve the management of salmonellosis, especially during emergencies.

This has potential to contribute towards reducing the public health risks associated with the pig value chain in Uganda where smallholder pig production is gaining popularity to meet the rising consumer demand for pork in urban areas.

The research is being done through the Safe Food, Fair Food project under the lead supervision of Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya.

The first phase of the project – preliminary laboratory analysis of food samples at Makerere University, Uganda – has already been completed.

From April to July 2013, Tinega will work with scientists at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa hub at ILRI to use DNA-related techniques such as multilocus sequence type analysis to characterize the Salmonella isolates.

He then proceeds to the University of Texas Medical School at Houston until 31 December 2013 for further training and research in molecular technologies, genomics, bioinformatics and biosafety under the mentorship of Barbara E. Murray.

“I’m grateful for this leadership and training opportunity at the Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical School as it provides a platform to carry out state-of-the-art biomedical, bioinformatics and genomics research,” said Tinega.

“This is also a useful opportunity to foster research collaboration and knowledge exchange between my home university and the University of Texas Medical School for mutual benefit.”

“I plan to further my career development towards a PhD so that I may use my enhanced research skills to contribute towards the socio-economic development of my country,” Tinega added.

Tinega holds a Bachelor of Biological Sciences degree from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

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