Two million pounds awarded to fight disease in East Africa

Two million pounds awarded to fight disease in East Africa
• Engage health authorities and institutes, identify priority questions and link output to policy;
• Fund 20 high calibre Research Fellows

An East African collaboration in Genomics and Modelling to the Control of Virus Pathogens (GeMVi) through the University of Warwick has been awarded £2million to tackle the spread of viruses in East Africa.

GeMVi brings together expertise in pathogen sequencing and predicative modelling. The project aims to increase the use of modern sequencing, bioinformatic and modelling tools to support interventions against the spread of viral disease in East Africa.

The research was commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research using Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding.
“In this field, despite high disease burden, low income countries have been left behind. James Nokes who is Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Warwick and is based at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) says “decisions on how to prevent, reduce or constrain disease arising from viruses (e.g. seasonal or pandemic influenza), requires evidence on the pathogens responsible, where they came from, how effectively they spread, and the potential implications of various interventions.
Noting that, modern methods are now available to rapidly identify and sequence the genetic code of a virus by which, together with epidemiological data (e.g. time and location of cases), will be used to track the virus from where it came and how it is spreading, and with statistical and mathematical methods, explore the potential impact of options for control that can support public health control measures.
East Africa has previously suffered from lack of opportunity, funding and specific skills and technology and thus provided an ideal region for study for the researchers.

The research seeks to combine the strengths of University of Warwick, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (Kenya) and other East African Institutes. The project will see collaboration with new partners in East Africa with similar interests, including Uganda Virus Research Institute and Makerere University in Uganda and Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute in Tanzania.

Professor of Life Sciences and Director of the University of Warwick’s Zeeman Institute Matt Keeling said: “GeMVi will engage health authorities and institutes, identify priority questions and link output to policy.

The fund also seeks to fund 20 high calibre research fellows on locally relevant projects. These include transfer sequencing technologies such as ’Next Generation Sequencing’, sharing bioinformatic methods and developing modelling capacity. This with the aim to generate new understanding through predictive modelling and virus sequence data”.

“Ultimately GeMVi aims at provision of evidence for intervention decisions, a sustainable collaborative network in the region, and an alliance on virus prevention and control preparedness.”

Following the award GeMVi is now looking to recruit East African research fellows with expertise in pathogen sequencing or predictive modelling applied to local public-health problems. Anyone interested should contact JNokes@kemri-wellcome.org (pathogen sequencing) or M.J.Keeling@warwick.ac.uk (predictive modelling).

Further questions can be directed to: jnokes@kemri-wellcome.org or cmauncho@kemri-wellcome.org