From mathematician to biostatistician: All in the name of malaria

02 Dec 2020

To support the effective conduct of PAMAfrica’s three clinical programs, Work Package 4 focuses on strengthening both research capacity at trial sites and the research capability of African scientists. Five students working for participating partner sites will be selected to enroll in long-term academic training (PhD and MSc) to set them on a career path as leaders in scientific research. The ultimate goal is to develop the next generation of experts in disciplines aligned with the clinical programs and to build a scientific network to nurture African researchers.

Fabrice Lotola Mougeni, the first student selected under this program, is currently working at CERMEL in Gabon and will soon start an MSc in biostatistics.

1. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Fabrice Mougeni. I am a 28-year old Gabonese. Since 2016, I have been working at the Lambaréné Medical Research Center (CERMEL) as a statistician. I joined after obtaining a master's degree in mathematics. I support investigators to design their studies by helping them with general data analysis. We determine the number of samples to be collected to achieve a goal, find the method of data collection for randomized clinical trials, and find a suitable method to randomize patients and avoid any bias in treatment evaluation. We also evaluate the data, develop appropriate methods for analysis, handle the interpretation of results, and communicate these to the professionals.

2. Why is biostatistics important in malaria drug research?

To develop new drugs, clinical research needs to be performed to high standards to have any impact. This includes high quality of statistical design and analysis of clinical trials. Specialized fields such as pharmacokinetics and bioinformatics are also important for drug development, and biostatistics plays an important role in these areas. 

3. Once you’ve completed your MSc, what next?

After the completion of my MSc, I am committed to work for CERMEL in Gabon for at least 2 years to continue to work in malaria research. I would like to find a way to contribute on a national scale, for example, be involved in the training of future biostatisticians. There is a serious lack of practical training in this field and often universities give more weight to theoretical rather than applied mathematics.