Abena S. Amoah
Research areas of interest: Epidemiology, Immunology, Parasitic infections, Infectious diseases, Noncommunicable diseases
Leiden University Medical Center | Leiden University Center for Infectious Diseases
Education and Research background
I first became interested in research through some great internship experiences I had while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at Mount Holyoke College in the United States. This interest was cemented during my first job which was as a research assistant in a laboratory focused on the neuroendocrinology of drug addiction at Rockefeller University in New York City. After two years, I took a gamble and relocated to Ghana where I got my first introduction to the world of field research and parasitology at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research. Later, I did a master’s degree in epidemiology at London School of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (LSHTM) and a PhD in immunoepidemiology at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). My PhD, supervised by Professor Maria Yazdanbakhsh, focused on the relationship between parasitic worm infections and allergies in Ghanaian children.
After my PhD, I have worked twice for LSHTM as a postdoctoral fellow and later as an assistant professor. Both times I was based at the Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit in Northern Malawi where I also oversaw research activities in a rural demographic surveillance site. I have also worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the LUMC and was part of the project management team for the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP)-funded freeBILy project. I am now back at the LUMC as the lead for the HypoVax Global knowledge hub focused on vaccine hyporesponsiveness and I have the exciting task of helping establish the hub.
My work on immune responses to vaccines
When I was in Malawi, I was a co-investigator for a Wellcome Trust-funded longitudinal SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence study that recruited 1000 rural and 1000 urban Malawians. As part of this study, we investigated evolving humoral immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 between February 2021 and April 2022 in our population cohorts. We were able to examine differences in seroprevalence among those who had received COVID-19 vaccines compared to those who did not. In a nested immunological component among a subset of rural participants, we isolated and cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) samples to examine cellular immune responses among vaccinated versus unvaccinated adults. We are hoping to do immune profiling on these samples in the very near future.
I love travelling, visiting museums and films. I missed out on meeting my hero Nelson Mandela because I was not around when he made a surprise visit to my school. A few years later though, I did get to meet the film director Lord Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila.