The recent Ebola epidemic exposed the fragility of Sierra Leones health system and highlighted the inadequate investments to date that are needed to support a well-functioning system capable of responding to a disease outbreak of this magnitude. To improve delivery of quality health services for patients with endemic viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHF) such as Lassa fever (LF), while strengthening capacity to conduct clinical trials during future epidemic VHF outbreaks such as Ebola, Sierra Leone must grow its pool of qualified health professionals with the methodological skills in implementation science and the conduct of clinical trials. We have designed a comprehensive planning grant proposal that will allow us to evaluate existing research capacity of our in-country partner organizations, while refining our strategies for best approaches to address gaps in that capacity. Based on our combined extensive knowledge and history of conducting VHF research in Sierra Leone; as well as nearly two-decades of experience in managing institutional research, training, and capacity-building grants; we propose our expected research training plan. Upon completion of the planning grant period we fully expect to submit a competitive proposal that responds to the goals of the FIC Global Infectious Disease Research Training Program (D43). We seek to substantially advance implementation science research capacity at Sierra Leones principal medical school, the University of Sierra Leone College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS); as well as clinical trial infrastructure at the Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) through the proposed Partnership for Research in Emerging Viral Infections-Sierra Leone (PREVSL) [pronounced ?Prev Sil?].
Our Specific Aim during the D71 Planning Grant period is to promote sustainable clinical and translation research capacity in Sierra Leone that addresses emerging viral diseases, specifically Ebola, Lassa, and other VHF, that have regional and global pandemic potential by: 1) Conducting an assessment of existing research training capacity at COMAHS and its partnering institutions, in preparation of submission of a (D43); 2) Reinforcing administrative, managerial, and research collaboration ties between COMAHS and the training partners proposed; and 3) Finalizing a list of prospective trainee candidates and ensure the establishment of a recruitment and selection process for future trainees from Sierra Leone. Our subsequent D43 training program will consist of a combination of (1) long-term Masters training in clinical investigation or public health at Vanderbilt; (2) short- to medium-term clinical trial management training that reinforces south-south collaborations and builds regional networks; (3) short and long-term capacity building in health services implementation science research; and (4) sustainable, indigenous capacity building at COMAHS for the management and administration of future research grant opportunities.
The University of Sierra Leone, College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, in partnership with Tulane University and the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health; propose to train a new generation of researchers with a focus on implementation science and clinical trial capacity. Our anticipated emphasis will be to advance clinical and translational health services research focused on efficacy studies of novel and existing therapeutics for endemic viral hemorrhagic fevers like Lassa fever, while simultaneously building indigenous capacity on how to conduct higher-level clinical trial research during an epidemic like Ebola.