5.40pm, Feb 12, 2015. A few reflections on KQ403 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. We have just completed the 2015 annual meeting of the ECF Consortium. We invited 40 attendees and managed to get 39 into and out of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, visa problems prevented one of our colleagues from entry (although his presentation did make it to the meeting) and others were challenged by the exotic nature of Addis’s microbial life!
We have come a long way since the January 2014 inception workshop, which was held in Nairobi. Not just in terms of the progress that has been made but also because we experimented with a new format for the meeting facilitated by Peter Ballantyne: only 5 minute PowerPoint presentations followed by bus stops, parallel workshops and world cafes. This format was a huge success and highly recommended by all – even the skeptics. The 3-day meeting was exhausting as was keeping up with Peter’s energy! I think we broke through many barriers and I felt that the Consortium is finally “gelling and melding”. All helped enormously by a highly engaged External Advisory Committee (EAC).
One year ago we had just completed the complex process of implementing collaborative research agreements (CRAs) between members of the ECF Consortium. A project structure, list of activities and management plan was in place. We understood that the first two years of the project was easier to define as it was unknown where the breakthroughs would come from in an ambitious four-year plan.
Our objective for this meeting was to review progress since 2014, explore what has worked and not worked in the science we are pursuing and in Consortium business – communication, administration and management – both internal and external. Since the inception meeting last year, we had received supplemental funding; a no-cost extension of the project to Dec 2017; four new members, and we acquired a new BMGF Program Officer. We needed to revise and agree on a new Results Framework. We managed to cover it all, thanks to Peter and the willingness of Consortium members.
The science that we discussed will be captured in a report of the meeting. Highlights for me included results from testing of a viral vectored vaccine antigen delivery system (HuAd5 prime/MVA boost); confirming (after a 10 year gap of anti-sporozoite research) that p67C does induce immunity to ECF; re-annotation of the T. parva genome and that we were wise in delaying several decisions until this was completed; developing a tick challenge model; undertaking a proteomics approach to antigen identification and development of immunological reagents from a library of synthetic antibodies.
We should celebrate that we are one year old! To keep us on track and to enhance standardization and cross-comparisons we decided that focus groups are necessary. We agreed to hold more virtual meetings, some face-face meetings convened to tackle specific topics and a greater interaction with the EAC. This will be implemented in the near future.
It is 6.33pm and the Embraer 190 is beginning to descend to Nairobi. The flight has been a smooth ride and I believe we as a Consortium are in for one as well. Nick Juleff reminded us of the African proverb “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together”!