Dr Devina Lobine, NEPAD-SANBio student ambassador, is among the 20 Sub-Saharan female scientists recognised for her excellent contributions to science. She received the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science programme 2020 award.
Her research focused on investigating phosphodiesterase inhibitors from traditionally used medicinal plants, as therapeutics to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
The number of Alzheimer disease (AD) suffers is expected to increase from 46.8 million to 131.5 million by 2050. Dr Lobine explained her motivation for her research:
In sub-Saharan Africa, over 2 million dementia sufferers in are waiting for a cure or a treatment that does better than just slowing their deterioration. Knowing that currently, there is no cure for AD, I decided to pursue my search in the field of neuropharmacology with the hope to find a remedy which is affordable to everyone.”
“I will use the grant obtained to advance my research; I will purchase required consumables which is quite expensive. Without this grant, it would be impossible for me to take my work to next phase,” she explained.
Dr Lobine was selected from nearly 330 applications and will receive financial support through grants of €10,000 for PhD students and €15,000 for post-doctorates, in order to enable her to pursue and consolidate her research work.
The L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Sub-Sahara Africa Programme is a joint initiative, launched in 2010, rewards each year twenty women scientists for the excellence of their work, and supports them to pursue their research through grants. The 2020 Young Talents come from 16 countries and embody all of the potential of African science through their backgrounds and research subjects. Dr Lobine will therefore join the community of 3 400 women researchers around the world who have been supported the program since its creation in 1998.
According to the Program, only 2.4% of the world's researchers are African scientists, 31% of whom are women – however, Dr Lobine is not dismayed by the statistics. She is optimistic about the future of science in the continent.
“Many female scientists are pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge, conducting pioneering research to seek solutions to complex global challenges every day. For instance, 2020 has proved to a blockbuster year for women, with three Nobel prizes awarded to female scientists. Indeed, the winners will inspire the new generation of women in science who will break the glass ceiling in research. “
“It has become even more crucial to have more women scientists in Africa, the continent’s capacity to compete on the global market depends on its ability to lead a socio-economic transformation based on harnessing science, technology and innovation (STI) for sustainable development. These goals can be achieved by transforming continent’s vast natural and human resource capability into value added products and services. In this context, it is crucial for African countries to create a pool of scientific experts, comprising of an equal number of women and men.”
“As the African proverb says, ‘you empower a woman, you empower a nation’- empowerment of African female scientists will retain the skilled one in the diaspora to contribute to the development of their countries of origin by overcoming challenges they faced. The same women scientists will in turn motivate the younger generation to pursue a career in science and to serve the continent,” Dr Lobine added.
Dr Lobine’s interest for science was sparked in high school due to life experiences and as a result has inspired her to become a scientist and improve the lives of other people.
“Along the journey as a science student, I have realised that science plays such a crucial role in many sectors, and it eventually help the country’s economy to grow and then my interest in applied sciences has strengthened.”
“The L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science award is very prestigious for any female scientist as it exceptionally recognised women for the excellence of their research. It allow us to get certain level of visibility within the scientific community and beyond, which ultimately opens more doors of opportunities for us. I feel more motivated and determined as a female scientist,” she said.
Her scientific dream is for scientists to create a vaccine or drugs that will eliminate HIV/AIDS.
“HIV continues to be a major global public health issue that are undermining the economic and social development of many countries, in particular poor-resourced countries in Africa. While considerable progress has been made to reduce spread of the virus, the risk that concerned authorities lose the momentum due to decrease funding in years to come is high. As such this infection will continue to plague the world. Thus, my dream is that science create a vaccine or drugs that will eliminate HIV/AIDS
Currently Dr Lobine is also working as co-investigator on a project entitled ‘African traditional herbal medicine against COVID-19’ – which involves using molecular docking methods to identify potential inhibitors from African plans for SARS-CoV-2.
Dr Lobine is a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Mauritius, she holds a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Biotechnology and a PhD in Natural Products.