Professor Ofori-Acquah Appointed to NIH Committee


 Professor Ofori-Acquah, Dean, School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences, University of Ghana, and Director of WAGMC

Professor Solomon Fiifi Ofori-Acquah, Dean, School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences, and Director, West African Genetic Medicine Centre (WAGMC) has been appointed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States (US), as Permanent Member of the Haematology research committee, known as the Molecular and Cellular Hematology Study Section. The appointment is for a six-year term from 2019-2025.

The NIH is the largest grant awarding body in the world with a budget of more than $32 billion devoted solely for medical research. It is the US federal focal point for medical and behavioural research funding, under the Department of Health and Human Services. The goal of the NIH is to allocate funding to support cutting-edge scientific research and programmes. NIH funded research has led to many pivotal scientific and medical discoveries in the causes, diagnosis, prevention, and cure of human diseases. To fund the best science, however, the NIH appoints the most accomplished scientists working primarily in the US with exemplary records of scientific exploration and productivity as reviewers. The reviewers serve on expert committees called Study Sections to assess the scientific merit of grant applications. Candidates are nominated by NIH Scientific Review Officers, and undergo a nearly one-year rigorous and independent background checks and evaluation of their scholarly work, and track record of funding. Appointments to NIH committees is a prestigious accomplishment. Study Section members serve a valuable role by helping the NIH identify and fund promising research, thus being essential to the Centre for Scientific Review’s mission of ensuring that NIH grant applications receive fair, independent, expert and timely reviews.

Prof. Solomon Ofori-Acquah is a world-renowned haematology scientist with a track record focused on sickle cell disease and genomics research. Since 2004, the NIH has continuously funded his research beginning in leading universities in the world including Emory University and the University of Pittsburgh, which is currently ranked 4th in NIH funding. To date, Professor Ofori-Acquah has received thirteen NIH grants as Principal Investigator totaling over $ 25 million. His most recent award was a $5.5 million grant for the SickleGenAfrica project, which is the largest single NIH grant received by the University of Ghana.

Professor Ofori-Acquah (right) receiving his certificate of appreciation of service from Professor Carlos Mantilla of the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland, Chair of the RIBT Committee (left)

Professor Ofori-Acquah previously served a six-year term (2013-2019) as permanent member of the NIH lung study section known as the Respiratory Integrative Biology and Translational Medicine (RIBT). At his final RIBT committee meeting in Chicago in June 2019 he received a certificate of appreciation for services  rendered to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the NIH. Typically, NIH reviewers serve only one discipline-specific committee, and Professor Ofori-Acquah remarked that he was looking forward to his retirement after the RIBT meeting in June 2019. However, the NIH approached him in 2018 to consider serving another six-year term this time to provide expertise in benign haematology.

Professor Ofori-Acquah is the only African serving on the Molecular and Cellular Hematology Study Section. The Haematology Committee reviews grant applications pertaining to basic and applied aspects of normal and abnormal hematopoiesis, as well as basic and applied aspects of the formed elements of the blood. Areas of focus include hematopoietic stem cells, hematopoietic growth factors and their receptors, leukemias and leukemogenesis, bone marrow failure syndromes, myeloproliferative syndromes, iron and heme metabolism, blood cell cytoskeleton biology, myeloid biology, transfusion medicine and gene therapy.

The University of Ghana is honoured by one of its internationally acclaimed scientist becoming a member of the expert panel of reviewers for the world’s largest funder of behavioral and biomedical research. Prof. Ofori-Acquah’s extensive knowledge of research grants, and his remarkable success with NIH funding, places the University of Ghana at a considerable advantage in the region to developing competitive applications to the NIH.

We congratulate Professor Ofori-Acquah on his appointment and wish him well as he continues to serve on the NIH.