Ghana's Leading SciComm Platform

Biography of Professor Gordon Awandare as delivered by Professor Nana Aba Appiah, VC of University of Ghana.

The text below was read by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana as part of the professorial inaugural lecture of Professor Gordon Awandare, one of Africa’s foremost scientists. This was delivered on June 8, 2023.

Lady Chancellor, Ministers of State, members of parliament, and other government officials present, justices of the Supreme Court and other judges, our distinguished lecturer Professor Gordon Akanzuwine Awandare, registrar, provosts, deans, directors, and heads of departments, former Vice Chancellors, members of the diplomatic corps, esteemed traditional leaders, eminent clergy, faculty, staff, and members of convocation, alumni and students, family and friends of the lecturer, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen from the press, distinguished virtual and in-person audience, good evening to you all.

I am excited to preside over this evening’s inaugural lecture, to be delivered by one of my able lieutenants and an illustrious son of Kandiga in the Upper East region. He is a man of many hats, the foundation chairman of the governing council of CK Tedam University of Technology and Applied Sciences in Navrongo, and more importantly, for us, our Pro Vice Chancellor with responsibility for academic and student affairs, who doubles as the founding director of the West African Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens.

This evening’s lecture puts the spotlight on the sustained research work of Professor Gordon Awandare and his contribution to his field of study: cell and molecular biology, immunology, and genetics, and to humanity. In December 2019, there was an international news headline about the outbreak of an infection in Wuhan, China. At the time, many of us thought it was one of those health issues that would resolve in a matter of weeks. Little did we know that it would become a global phenomenon, grinding the world with all its hustle and bustle to a halt.

In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. The world was plagued with a contagious, fast-spreading, and deadly virus: the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, generally known as COVID-19. This was an infection that scientists barely knew about. Hospitals were overwhelmed, mortality rates were alarming, and the world was plunged into a new normal with accompanying restrictions, lockdowns, and travel bans, among others.

Though there were predictions of higher fatalities in Africa, thankfully, we did not experience that. Perhaps God spared us, because even without any extraordinary occurrence, we didn’t have enough hospital beds or adequate health infrastructure to handle daily emergencies. While those predictions did not materialize, some suggested that the scorching sun in Africa was possibly responsible for killing the potency of the virus. Whatever it was, most of us were just grateful to God for the intervention that shielded us from the full force of the virus.

While we were busily thanking God, Professor Awandare and his team were fixated on understanding the science and explaining those occurrences. Tonight, as he takes us through his academic journey, his focus, through this lecture, is on how our immune system acquires tolerance to malaria and helps us survive COVID-19. From his abstract, it is evident that our frequent exposure to malaria from childhood made our immune system more tolerant to COVID-19.

In the heat of the pandemic, several units of the University of Ghana played diverse roles and significantly contributed to understanding the pathogen’s biology and disease mechanisms to generate knowledge for the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and drugs. Two such units that were outstanding were the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the West African Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens. If the media needed credible information devoid of political undertones, they either spoke to the covered professor or any of his able team members.

Through this inaugural lecture, the University of Ghana celebrates the remarkable achievements of Professor Gordon Awandare, who is not only knowledgeable in the investigation of infectious pathogens but has also been at the forefront of major discoveries on malaria and has conducted significant scientific inquiry on the genetics of hearing impairment, particularly in Ghana.

As a research-intensive university, we take pride in our formidable researchers whose stellar performances have contributed to our global ranking as a leading university in Ghana, according to the recently published 2023 Center for World University Rankings. Not only is Professor Gordon Awandare adept at investigating the cell biology of infectious pathogens, but he also has an outstanding record of winning grants and building research partnerships across the world, which has advanced scientific equipment infrastructure, fellowships, and postgraduate training at the University of Ghana. He was recently appointed by the President of the Republic of Ghana as a member of the founding governing board of the National Vaccine Institute of Ghana, due to his proven capabilities.

With the World Health Organization’s recent declaration that COVID-19 is no longer considered a pandemic, it’s a good time to relax and understand how God spared Africans from the full rigours of the infection.

And now, distinguished audience, please permit me to share a brief biography of our lecturer.

Professor Awandare’s Biography

Professor Gordon Akanzuwine Awandare is a professor of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, and the Chancellor responsible for academic and student affairs at the University of Ghana. He is also the founding director of the West African Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens and a visiting professor at the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brooks University, Oxford, UK.

Professor Awandare completed his O-levels in 1991 at Notre Dame Seminary Secondary School in Navrongo, and his A-levels at Presbyterian Boys Secondary School in Legon. He obtained his Bachelor’s and MPhil degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Ghana and his PhD in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

During his master’s degree studies from 1999 to 2002, Professor Awandare worked as a research assistant at the Immunology Unit of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the University of Ghana and at the Unite de Parasitologie et d’Immunologie Moléculaires des Parasites in Paris, France. After completing his master’s degree, he was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry in 2002 and obtained his PhD in 2007.

Following his PhD, Professor Awandare worked as a scientist at the Division of Malaria Vaccine Development of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, until 2010 when he returned to the University of Ghana to establish his research group. He was promoted to senior lecturer in 2011, associate professor in 2015, and professor in 2018. He served as the head of the Department of Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology from 2013 to 2017. In 2014, he led the establishment of the West African Center for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens after winning one of the World Bank African Centers of Excellence grants and became the founding director of the center. He was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs in January 2022.

Professor Awandare specializes in cell and molecular biology, immunology, and genetics. His research focuses on both infectious and non-communicable diseases, aiming to understand pathogen biology and disease mechanisms to contribute to the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and drugs. The majority of his research output is on malaria, including investigating mechanisms of red cell invasion, innate and adaptive immune responses, and the role of human genetic variation in influencing disease pathogenesis. He played a leading role in the discovery of complement receptor one as a major receptor used by malaria parasites to evade red blood cells. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed journal publications in a wide range of journals, including leading infectious diseases and immunology journals.

Professor Awandare has supervised 14 postdoctoral fellows, 20 PhD students, and 23 Master’s students, and he has mentored many young scientists in Ghana and across Africa. He has an outstanding record of winning grants and building research partnerships globally. He has successfully managed several large multinational and multidisciplinary training and research projects involving high-level academics and multi-million dollar budgets. Since 2011, he has directly attracted over 40 million USD in grant funds for the University of Ghana, including highly competitive grants such as two World Bank African Centers of Excellence grants valued at 14.5 million USD and two Wellcome Trust Deltas Awards amounting to 11.5 million USD. These grants have provided advanced scientific equipment, infrastructure, and fellowships to over 350 African scientists for master’s, doctoral, and postdoctoral training at the University of Ghana.

Within the University of Ghana, Professor Awandare currently serves as the board chairman for the University of Ghana Enterprises Limited. He also chairs the implementation committee for the Vice-Chancellor’s Classroom Modernization Project and serves on various boards and committees. At the national level, he is the foundation chairman of the governing council of the CK Tedam University of Technology and Applied Sciences in Navrongo and has previously served on the governing council of the University for Development Studies in Tamale. He is a member of the Advisory Board of Yemaachi Biotech, a biotechnology company in Accra, and a member of the foundation governing board of the National Vaccine Institute of Ghana. He has served on numerous prestigious international boards and committees.

Professor Awandare has received several awards and honours for his contributions to science. He received the Royal Society Pfizer Award in 2015 for achievements in molecular and cellular studies of malaria and science capacity building in Africa. He also received distinguished awards for meritorious service in 2014 and 2020 from the College of Basic and Applied Sciences at the University of Ghana. He is a fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Society of Biology, UK. In 2019, he was appointed as the first Global Editor for Africa for Experimental Biology and Medicine and the Journal of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine.

Aside from his academic and research achievements, Professor Awandare hails from Kandiga in the Upper East Region of Ghana. He was born in Bolgatanga in November 1974 to Mr. Joseph Attorney Atoria and Mrs. Immaculate Atoria, who were both teachers. He is the eldest of four children and is married to Mrs. Masa Awandare, with whom he has three children named Marie, Gabriel, and Jeremy. He comes from a large extended family and has many close relatives. Distinguish ladies and gentlemen, this is a brief profile. It is now my singular pleasure to invite professor Gordon Awandare.


[Traditional Dance Performace]

[Appellations by Lunsi]

Transcript of Video Autobiography of Professor Awandare 

I completed my PhD at the University of Pittsburgh. After that, I did a postdoc at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring. In 2010, I returned to Ghana to start my independent career here. I believed that the skills I had were more needed in Ghana than where I was.

One group I established was recognized as a World Bank African Center of Excellence. The inspiration behind it was the realization that there were limited facilities for training scientists in Ghana. We saw an opportunity to create an environment where young scientists could receive quality education and training comparable to researchers worldwide.

Our mission was to create a world-class research and training environment where young African scientists from across the continent could develop their talents and conduct high-quality research in line with global standards.

We focused on two main approaches: research and capacity building. In terms of research, we used advanced molecular techniques to understand infectious diseases and develop new diagnostics, vaccines, and drug interventions. We also employed genetic approaches to identify genetic signatures associated with certain diseases, which could aid in diagnosis.

Capacity building involved identifying the best scientists on the continent and providing them with the necessary skills and tools to conduct research and make interventions in their respective fields.

We aimed to ask cutting-edge research questions, especially regarding the interaction between infectious and non-communicable diseases. By studying these interactions, we hoped to understand how infectious agents could precipitate or accelerate non-communicable diseases.

Our vision was for Africa to become a hub of innovative science, with young scientists driving new discoveries in diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines. We wanted Africa to be prepared to respond effectively to future pandemics.

Throughout my academic journey, I always sought opportunities to return to Africa. I wanted to establish myself and contribute my most productive and useful years to the continent. When I learned about the opportunity at this young center led by someone I respected and identified with, it felt like a fulfillment of my long-held aspirations.


Ladies and gentlemen, we are meeting you at a time where the world is recovering from the COVID pandemic. As African scientists, there are many lessons we take from this unfortunate era. Some were positive, but we have to acknowledge the challenges that we’ve had to contend with, which will inform our strategy going forward. One of the first lessons we learned is that African scientists have to tell our own story, and that’s why we’re here. We have to tell the story of how the pandemic unfolded on the continent. We have had various versions of how the pandemic affected Africa. On one hand, there are people who have never been to Africa but have used modelling to predict that the continent would be wiped out by the epidemic. On the other hand, some people think that Africa did wonderfully and controlled the virus, but we think that is false and misleading. Our research shows that the virus did spread very well and fast on the continent, and the fast spread is our advantage.



Subscribe for Updates

Subscribe for Updates


Leave a Reply