Our staff



The Africa Research Excellence Fund operates from the Gambia, Uganda and London. We have a small dedicated team determined to make a difference:

Professor Tumani Corrah KBE CBE MRG

Professor Corrah, who is Gambian, has over thirty years of progressively senior-level research and leadership experience, ten years of which were as the Unit Director of the Medical Research Council’s Unit, the Gambia. He is medically qualified and has retained active research interests in tropical and infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, HIV and malaria. Professor Corrah is an Honorary Fellow of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and is a member of over twenty scientific board and committee groups worldwide. He is the Emeritus Director of the MRC Unit in The Gambia where he also leads the MRC’s Africa Research Development Office.

Dr Peter Dukes
Associate Director of Programme

Dr Peter Dukes works with Professor Corrah on the development of AREF’s strategy and policy, and is responsible for developing the Awards and Academy Programmes for emerging researchers. He is also a member of the MRC’s Africa Research Development Office. Originally trained as a parasitologist, Dr Dukes carried out research in Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Nigeria. He has held various senior research management posts since 1990 at the Medical Research Council in London.  He is now based in the Gambia and UK.

Dr Bridget Bannerman, PhD 
Science Manager

Bridget’s research activities have spanned the Medical Research Council and the International Trypanotolerance Centre in The Gambia to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge, UK.  With a strong research interest in drug discovery, Bridget established a database of metabolic pathways, TrypanoCyc, identifying novel drug targets against Trypanosoma brucei (causative agent of the African sleeping sickness disease) using the Pathway tools software and working with various partners to cross-link with other resources and ensure interoperability.  Bridget’s most recent research projects include studies to provide insights into the evolution of parasitism in eukaryotes; she has also set up a network analysis protocol for investigating drug targets in mycobacteria to support research projects on antimicrobial resistance in developing countries.

Inspired with a mission to support scientific research in Africa, Bridget set up the Science Resources Africa Programme (SRA) with widespread collaborations in the East, West and Southern parts of Africa, the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Portugal.  Now with experience in project management and promoting capacity building in science education she joined AREF in April 2019.

Maria Bellocci
Head of Operations

Maria joined AREF in June 2018 as the Head of Operations, Governance & Finance. Maria’s focus is operational efficiency and improvements and ensuring statutory compliance and effective budget management.

Prior to joining AREF, Maria worked for charity Whizz-Kidz. During her 11 years there she was responsible for customer services, procurement, budgets, M&E and NHS contracts. She was involved in organisational improvement projects and was an internal ISO auditor and the Responsible Individual for OFSTED.

Maria’s career has focused on service delivery throughout. Initially in the private sector and then in NHS and private healthcare projects. Evaluating and improving systems and processes is second nature to her and she loves the challenge of ensuring that the best service possible is provided.


Sulayman Janneh
Fellowships Manager

Sulayman’s role as Fellowships Manager is to develop and manage the processes for delivering the AREF Research Development Fellowships. He is on secondment to AREF from the Research Support Office of the MRC Unit, The Gambia. Sulayman is from The Gambia and has worked and lived in USA, and The Gambia, assuming various roles in project management, finance and business development.

Lamin Sanneh
Senior Administrative Assistant

Lamin’s key role as AREF’s Senior Administrative Assistant is to help manage and administer the AREF Research Development Fellowships and other Awards. Lamin is a Gambian and on secondment to AREF from the Medical Research Council Unit, The Gambia.  He has significant experience in HR and project management.

AREF is please to announce that Jarra Jallow has won a scholarship to study at the University of Oxford.

Irene Coker 
Training Events Manager  

As AREF’s new Training & Events Manager, Irene has crucial role in delivering AREF’s workshops and development programmes.  Irene not only brings her own experience and skills to AREF but will benefit from the support of all AREF and Foundation staff. Irene previously worked at QCell Ltd, a provider of telecommunication services in The Gambia.  She looks forward to being part of the great future AREF works to achieve by investing in and supporting African researchers to produce quality research that translates into the adoption of better healthcare policies and practices for and by Africans, thereby saving countless lives.