Annie Elong Ngono, Ph.D., is an infectious disease specialist at La Jolla Institute for Immunology, where she works to find answers to the biggest immunological questions.
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Annie is not your typical scientist. She was educated in two different countries: Cameroon and France. She believes that it made her more open. "I'm really proud of the fact that I'm coming from Africa. I'm African, but I'm not just that. I'm Annie first and I should not be defined as being the African scientist.” - Annie Elong Ngono, Ph.D.
Annie grew up in a family of scientists. “The fact that I have parents in science, seeing how fascinated they were about what they were doing, I chose science and particularly biology because of my fascination with viruses and also the human body.”
Annie regularly video chats with her father; she has not been able to travel because of the pandemic and hasn’t visited her family in Cameroon for several years.
Even as it took her far away from their home, Annie’s family has been encouraging her to follow her scientific aspirations. Their hope is that one day, she will return and use her skills and expertise to help establish strong, regional infectious research programs in resource-poor countries.
Throughout her life, biology has held a unique fascination for Annie.
“You have to be different to be a researcher. You need perseverance. You need to be able to stand up even after failure and never give up because that's the principle of research.”
Annie analyzes human samples that she helped to collect in Nepal to study how dengue virus evolves as it spreads to new regions of the world.
“I am now working with many countries in Asia. My next step will be to create and develop collaborations with countries in Africa. I really want to build this collaboration between Asia and Africa because it will increase our chances to reduce the impact of infectious disease. My hope is to lead this effort in my own lab.”
When working with samples of dangerous viruses, Annie must gown head to toe in PPE. In this picture, Annie checks the battery on her PAPR before entering the high containment lab. The PAPR helps filter the air she breathes when she’s working with viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, dengue and Zika.
Annie wants to run her own lab one day, but first, she must secure a grant. “The PI, or principal investigator, is the person heading the lab. To become a PI you need a grant and you also need to be accepted by an institution. I want to study the cross-reactivity of dengue virus in dengue-endemic countries with other flaviviruses. So, what I'm planning to look at is how Japanese encephalitis or Zika virus infection can influence dengue disease."
For a long time, Annie worried that she was not good enough to be a PI. “At one point, my mind changed and I realized, ‘Okay, actually I am able to do it. I have all of the skills to be able to do it.’” - Annie Elong Ngono
“One of the biggest things last year was that I became confident enough to say, ‘I'm good enough to be a PI. I can do it.’"
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