Training in Clinical and Epidemiological Research for Liberia (TRACER)

Investigator: Jeffrey Martin, MD, MPH
Sponsor: NIH John F. Fogarty International Center

Location(s): Liberia


This program will provide advanced clinical and epidemiological research training to Liberian early-career investigators, focusing on Ebola, acute febrile illness and malaria. It will strengthen research and educational platforms in Liberia, and improve the country’s ability to respond to acute and emerging infectious disease threats.

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), in collaboration with the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), the University of Liberia, and NIH/PREVAIL, proposes a research training program to provide aspiring young investigators in Liberia with comprehensive didactic, mentored, and experiential training in clinical and/or epidemiological research targeting the etiology of acute febrile illness (AFI), emerging infectious diseases (EID)/Ebola and malaria. Our overall goal is to develop a cadre of well-trained investigators who can become part of a sustainable, independent clinical/ epidemiological research and training enterprise in the region. The 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic highlighted the severe lack of health care infrastructure and human resources in the country; Liberia is the 8th poorest country in the world. Our specific aims, based on our experience in Liberia, the country’s main public health infectious disease priorities, and the results of a D71-funded needs assessment, are to:
1)Train selected Liberians in clinical/epidemiological research by enrolling them into the UCSF Master’s in Clinical Research (MCR) (N=2) and the PhD program in Epidemiology and Translational Science (N=1);
2) Support graduated trainees to pursue their research careers in Liberia, and to begin teaching others;
3) Promote research on EID/Ebola, acute febrile illness, and malaria, and advance UCSF-Liberian collaborative research;
4) Support and train more advanced Liberian investigators to become effective mentors, and to write grant applications.
The MCR program has successfully developed skills of young investigators for the last 20 years, including trainees from lower and middle income countries, nearly 90% of whom have gone onto successful research careers. Both the MCR and PhD programs focus on providing fundamental and advanced skills in research study design and implementation, biostatistics, analysis, epidemiology, and publication and presentation of research. Our experience has demonstrated that success requires intensive mentorship and a supportive in-country environment with research opportunities when trainees return home. UCSF has a strong malaria and EID research community to support trainees and is using cutting-edge metagenomics sequencing technology to determine causes of AFI. We will also make use of the existing research environment and infrastructure at NIH/PREVAIL in Liberia, and at NPHIL. Our shared vision is for Liberia to ultimately develop its own internationally competitive high-quality training program in clinical research.