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Tribute to Prof. Ogobara Doumbo (1956-2018)

2 July 2018

Professor Ogobara Doumbo, Director of the Malaria Research and Training Center (MRTC) in Bamako, Mali, died on 9 June 2018. He was recognized as a global leader in malaria research. In commemoration of Prof. Doumbo, EDCTP publishes the tribute written by Dr Karim Traoré, operational coordinator of the EDCTP-funded REECAO ethics project.

“We are extremely sad by the passing away of Professor Ogobara Doumbo, an outstanding research leader and true mentor of the next generation. May he rest in peace”

Dr Michael Makanga, EDCTP Executive Director

“Professor Ogobara Doumbo will be sadly missed by the global malaria community. I trained at the Malaria Research and Training Center in Mali in the early 1990s; he was a great mentor”

Prof. Moses Bockarie, EDCTP Director of International Cooperation (Africa) and Head of Africa Office

Prof. Ogobara Doumbo was an eminent specialist in parasitology-mycology and a renowned scientist who dedicated his life to finding tools for malaria control and elimination. He was the director of the Malaria Research and Training Center, the research center he brought to international levels of scientific production in a resource-constrained country such as Mali, his home country.

He received his MD from the National School of Medicine and Pharmacy in 1979, a Master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Aix Marseille III in 1987 and a PhD in parasitology from the University of Montpelier, France, in 1992. He returned to Mali and co-founded the Malaria Research and Training Center (MRTC) together with Professor Yeya Toure in 1992.

His initial research contributed to the clinical development of ivermectine for the treatment of onchocerciasis. Thereafter, his focus was on malaria, encompassing all fields of malaria research. His work contributed to the validation of intermittent preventive treatment strategies for protecting women during pregnancy and children younger than five years, as part of the so-called chemoprevention of seasonal malaria strategy. These two strategies were endorsed by WHO for malaria endemic countries in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Moreover, he worked on the clinical development of a malaria vaccine. In the period 2003-2018, his teams conducted more than 16 clinical trials of candidate vaccines and drugs, placing the MRTC at the forefront of clinical research for an effective malaria vaccine. He was programme principal investigator of the Malian component of international consortiums supported by EDCTP, such as the West African Network for TB, AIDS and Malaria (WANETAM) and Training and Resources in Research Ethics Evaluation (TRREE). He was the Coordinator of the EDCTP funded REECAO (Reinforcement of ethics of clinical research in West Africa) that aimed to strengthen ethical capacities in West Africa. He co-authored more than 500 scientific publications in peer-reviewed national and international journals.

Health systems
Prof. Doumbo worked tirelessly to improve health systems in developing countries. He contributed within the NGO “Santé Sud” to developing the concept of ‘field doctor‘. This led to a network of more than 250 medical doctors working in poor rural areas in Mali which has an almost nationwide coverage. The network dramatically improved the overall health of the population serviced. The successful initiative was acclaimed by WHO and set as a model for other countries, for example in Madagascar.

His work was acknowledged by multiple awards, including the INSERM award for International Research in 2013 (France), the “Chaire des Docteurs Mérieux” from the French Academy of Sciences and Medicine in 2013 (France), the Christophe Mérieux award in 2007 (France), and the Prince of Asturias award in 2008 (Spain). He was elected Member of the French Academy of Medicine, the African Academy of Sciences, and was a Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene since 2016. He was a founding member of the Malian Academy of Medical Sciences.

Ogobara Doumbo was an extraordinary friend, an accomplished trainer and a marvelous mentor. He guided more than 60 doctoral and post-doctoral trainees. Several of them now head leading institutions in Mali. Elsewhere, in Africa, Europe and the USA, tens of scientists are proud to belong to the group of his former trainees. He was convinced that research is sustainable only when based on teams with highly qualified members and a favorable environment. Guided by this vision, he built one of the strongest research groups on malaria in Africa.

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