Instrumental Access 2020
University of BeninCentre of Excellence in Reproductive Health Innovation
Improving reproductive and maternal health in West and Central Africa
Meet our Awardee
The Centre of Excellence in Reproductive Health Innovation (CERHI) at the University of Benin was established in 2015 as a World Bank-supported project under the African Centres of Excellence program. It aims to build capacity for implementing high-quality training and applied research for reproductive health professions to tackle policies and programs for reducing the high burden of fertility, unsafe abortion, maternal mortality, and HIV/AIDS in West and Central Africa
CERHI is one of 17 Centres of Excellence in Nigeria and is the only one focused on reproductive health. With World Bank support, CERHI established a Medical and Research Laboratory serving CERHI and the wider University of Benin community, where laboratory research facilities are limited.
CERHI works with the existing university system to develop programs that train postgraduate students for careers and research in reproductive health. Its goal is to increase understanding of the pathologies of reproductive health and work towards effective therapies that can help reduce the burden of these diseases.
Research AreasScientists at CERHI research treatments for preterm birth, infertility, ovarian disorders, malaria in pregnancy, gestational diabetes, male reproductive disorders, and drug discovery from natural products.
The laboratory equipment donated by Seeding Labs creates an opportunity for a larger proportion of budding scientists to be trained in their own countries in studies specifically designed to solve local problems."
Solving a Reproductive Mystery: Akhere Omonkhua, PhD
Since she first took a chemistry class in secondary school, Akhere Omonkhua, PhD, (right) professor of medical biochemistry and project coordinator at CERHI, says she was "fascinated by how science seemed to provide answers for things I thought, at that time, were inexplicable."
One mystery that remains inexplicable to her today is the high rate of non-identical twins (commonly called dizygotic or DZ twins) born among the Yoruba people in Southwestern Nigeria. Since the 1960s, the region has been reported to have the highest rate of DZ twins in the world, and no one knows why.
Professor Omonkhua—a DZ twin herself—is examining the high rate of DZ twinning in the region by taking a holistic approach. Her research team has undertaken the first study to systematically assess the possible causes of the exceptionally high twinning rate in the region by providing both genetic and environmental evidence for the unique occurrence.
By first studying the area’s diet, Professor Omonkhua intends to gain insight into factors for the high twinning rate. Available evidence points to the high consumption of cassava and yams, a staple food in southwest Nigeria, as a possible factor. Yams and cassava are known to contain compounds called phyto-oestrogens that could impact ovulation, and therefore twinning.
Professor Omonkhua plans to examine the biochemical impact of cassava and yams to see if they impact reproductive rates in animal studies. If a dietary factor is responsible for twinning and Professor Omonkhua's team could isolate and characterize it, it could have huge implications for regulating fertility or treating infertility. Further analysis of the genetic and environmental factors, though, takes advanced equipment not currently available in CERHI's labs.
With equipment from Instrumental Access, Professor Omonkhua sees possibilities for this research and for so many other projects that need this equipment.
“There is nothing more frustrating than seeing the potential of enthusiastic students die because they do not have the facilities to fulfill their dreams,” she says. “For the first time in years, since I started working with CERHI, I have seen the excitement and hope come back to these young researchers.”
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The support we are receiving from Seeding Labs will provide equipment for our staff and students, which was previously only accessible outside Nigeria. We will build on our research capacities and make contributions to our region and beyond."
About the DepartmentLocation: Benin City, Nigeria
Year Established: 2015
Students Impacted Annually: 250 undergraduate and 180 postgraduate
Why Instrumental Access?CERHI’s laboratory was originally intended only to be used for research related to reproductive health, but due to a lack of teaching and research labs at the University of Benin, CERHI’s labs were opened to wider use. The increase in the lab’s workflow means that CERHI is in need of more equipment that can be used across collaborating departments. Equipment from Seeding Labs will also support implementing postdoctoral degree programs at CERHI.
Shipment StatusIn preparation
About Instrumental Access
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.