Program Spotlights Scientific Innovation across African Continent

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Johnson & Johnson Innovation today announced five winners of the first Champions of Science – Africa Storytelling Challenge. The Challenge aimed to highlight the journeys of scientists and innovators working in Africa, and celebrate the impact of their work on families, communities and the world.

“The stories of scientists working on the African continent are often hidden, yet the work they do is vitally important, and their stories are often remarkable and inspiring,” said Seema Kumar, Vice President, Innovation, Global Health and Policy Communication, Johnson & Johnson. “By showcasing the contributions of the talented scientists and innovators in Africa, we hope to build public engagement and inspire Africa’s youth to pursue careers in science to help change the trajectory of health for humanity.”

The Challenge received more than 100 entries from scientists and innovators in 22 African nations, including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, among others. An independent committee of scientists, science journalists and policymakers selected the winners, who will receive a $5,000 cash prize, publication of their stories, and international publicity.

Later today, during a special session at the AAAS Annual Meeting, Johnson & Johnson will host an Award celebration and panel discussion to spotlight the winners, hear from esteemed African leaders about the exciting science and technology developments taking place across the continent, and facilitate a discussion about the importance of engaging more champions of science across the world.

“I congratulate the winners of the Champions of Science – Africa Storytelling Challenge, whose stories showcase the diversity and depth of scientific innovation taking place across the African continent,” said H.E. Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Science & Technology, South Africa, who was represented by senior officials at the celebration. “I firmly believe that we need to create broader public awareness of the outstanding work being done by African innovators across diverse scientific disciplines. I am pleased that we have the opportunity to celebrate the stories of these outstanding champions of science.”

The Africa Storytelling Challenge is part of Johnson & Johnson’s ongoing commitment to convene and catalyze champions of science and to engage people of all generations and backgrounds to see the unlimited opportunities that science brings.

Champions of Science – Africa Storytelling Challenge Winners

  • Askwar Hilonga, Ph.D., Tanzania , whose story profiles his invention of a low-cost water filter to clean contaminated water in rural areas
  • Elizabeth Kperrun, Nigeria , whose story describes her work to develop award-winning language learning tools for children.
  • Philippa Ngaju Makobore, Uganda , who described how she and a team of engineers prototyped an automated non-invasive infusion controller to safely and accurately regulate life-saving intravenous fluids and drugs in resource-constrained settings including hospitals and treatment spaces with unreliable power supply.
  • Maame Ekua Manful, Ghana , who described her journey to form a start-up to create fortified foods to address the issue of vitamin A deficiency syndrome prevalent in developing countries.
  • Levit Nudi, Kenya , whose story profiles his development of an innovative mobile app to prevent use of counterfeit or substandard medicines.

Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson Innovation announced Dr. Mahmoud Bukar Maina as the winner of the Africa Storytelling Challenge – YASE Edition, which was open to the participants of the Young African Scientists in Europe gathering in July 2018.

Champions of Science – Africa Storytelling Challenge Judges

An independent panel of judges selected the winners and included:

  • Luc Allemand, Ph.D., science journalist and Editor-in-Chief, Afriscitech
  • Rebekah Corlew, Ph.D., Project Director, Mass Media Fellowship, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Carly Cox, Ph.D., Civic Engagement Project Manager, Research!America
  • Francois Davel, Director, Science Forum South Africa, South Africa Department of Science and Technology
  • Aidan Gilligan, CEO, SciCom – Making Sense of Science
  • Mark Henderson, Director of Communications, Wellcome Trust
  • Nathalie Munyampenda, Managing Director, Next Einstein Forum
  • Tolu Oni, M.B.B.S., M.D. (Res), Clinical Senior Research Associate, Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge
  • Ron Winslow, freelance science journalist, former Deputy Bureau Chief, Health and Science, The Wall Street Journal; past president of the National Association of Science Writers

About Champions of Science
Science touches our lives in every imaginable way. From antibiotics and telecommunications, to genomics, precision medicine and 3D printing, science has improved the human condition, leading to longer, healthier, happier lives for people all over the world. To continue to advance, science needs champions!

As a global healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson Innovation is uniquely positioned to champion the role of science in society. We have launched Champions of Science – a multi-faceted public engagement initiative – to convene and catalyze champions of science and engage people of all generations and backgrounds to see the unlimited opportunities that science brings.

About Champions of Science Storytelling Challenge
The Champions of Science Storytelling Challenge series aim to spotlight the achievements and personal journeys of scientists and champions of science in all regions of the world.  In addition to the Africa Storytelling Challenge, the company launched the Champions of Science Storytelling Challenge: Latin America & Caribbean edition, as well as other editions to highlight stories across multiple generations and geographies.

About Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC
Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC focuses on accelerating all stages of innovation worldwide and forming collaborations between entrepreneurs and Johnson & Johnson’s global healthcare businesses. Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC provides scientists, entrepreneurs and emerging companies with one-stop access to science and technology experts who can facilitate collaborations across the pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer companies of Johnson & Johnson. Under the Johnson & Johnson Innovation umbrella of businesses, we connect with innovators through our regional Innovation Centers, JLABS, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. and our Business Development teams to create customized deals and novel collaborations that speed development of innovations to solve unmet needs for patients. For more information please visit: www.jnjinnovation.com.

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