Instrumental AccessInstrumental Access 2019:
Université Marien Ngouabi
Department of Biology

In the Republic of Congo, helping to rebuild research and teaching infrastructure destroyed by civil war

  • Dr. Pembé Issamou Mayengué of the Université Marien Ngouabi

  • Master's and PhD students at Université Marien Ngouabi

  • A lab that will house Instrumental Access equipment at Université Marien Ngouabi

  • The Université Marien Ngouabi Faculty of Science and Techniques building in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo

  • The Department of Biology labs at Université Marien Ngouabi

Meet our Awardee

The Université Marien Ngouabi (UMNG) is the only public university in the Republic of Congo.

It is located in Brazzaville, the nation’s capital. Originally founded in 1971 as the University of Brazzaville, it has endured through political turmoil, including a civil war in the late 1990s that destroyed much of the city.

The Department of Biology is part of the Faculty of Sciences and Techniques. The department oversees three bachelor’s degree programs and four Master’s programs.

Research Areas

Research priorities include natural products research, isolation of bioactive compounds from bacteria, food science, soil metagenomics, antimicrobial resistance, pathogen genetic diversity, bioresources, plants protection, and animal bioecology.

We are facing challenges in health, food, agriculture, and the environment. Students have to usually go to developed countries to see adequate equipment for doctoral theses. Having equipment will enable students to work. It will be a realized dream to work properly at home."

-Dr. Etienne Nguimbi, Professor

Fighting Malaria in Brazzaville and Beyond: Dr. Pembé Issamou Mayengué

Despite significant progress over the last few decades, malaria still impacts 219 million people worldwide. It causes 435,000 deaths per year, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Republic of Congo is one of the countries where the malaria epidemic is still raging.

Dr Pembe MayenguePembé Issamou Mayengué, PhD, an assistant professor at Université Marien Ngouabi, is dedicated to fighting it.

With support from The World Academy of Sciences, she and her students are analyzing samples from malaria patients attending three laboratories in Brazzaville.

Their goal is molecular characterization of the malaria parasites, which means a detailed analysis of their DNA.

Molecular characterization is important for three reasons. First, it provides a standard against which to compare visual identification of the parasites by technicians using microscopes. This is the usual basis for treatment decisions by doctors and other healthcare providers.

The Republic of Congo launched a national initiative to fight malaria in 2006. Microscopist training and improved treatment approaches became national priorities.

A decade later, it was "necessary to evaluate the impact of these strategies to see how successful they were and note any changes to the malaria parasites' genetic profiles," says Dr. Mayengué.

"Molecular characterization of malaria parasites is important because this allows evaluation of the impact of different interventions on malaria," she explains.

Dr. Mayengué’s initial data reveal that parasite identification remains inaccurate at the health centers she studied, with wide variation in quality. Additional training is needed for microscopists working in this area.

Second, molecular characterization enables researchers to monitor for the emergence of resistance to artemisinin and its derivatives, the most effective class of drugs currently used to treat malaria.

Resistance has recently emerged in Southeast Asia, but it is not yet widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, where it would represent a major public health disaster.

Dr. Mayengué’s samples from Brazzaville have so far been reassuring on this front, showing limited evidence of the genetic variability associated with artemisinin resistance.

Third, an understanding of the genetic diversity of malaria parasites is critical to malaria vaccine development efforts.

With equipment from Instrumental Access, Dr. Mayengué hopes to complete her current studies and then expand them to more clinics, including some in rural areas of the country where very little is known about the state of the malaria epidemic.

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Université Marien Ngouabi
One of the objectives of my research activities is training Master's and PhD students. However, the lack of equipment is one of the big limitations."
-Dr. Pembé Issamou Mayengué
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Shipment Status

In transit

About the Department

Location: Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo
Year Established: 1971
Number of Students Impacted Annually: 120 undergraduate, 60 graduate

Why Instrumental Access?

The Faculty of Sciences and Techniques was almost completely destroyed by a civil war in the late 1990s.

Because of limited resources, the university is still struggling to rebuild its infrastructure. Equipment is needed to support practical teaching and research, much of which currently takes place at off-campus facilities.

About Instrumental Access

Instrumental Access empowers scientists in developing countries. It gives them the resources they need to pursue life-changing research and teach the next generation.

To begin, we identify a pipeline of scientific talent. Then we rigorously screen universities and select those with the most potential to advance education and research through Instrumental Access.