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ICER program fosters research collaborations in developing countries

July / August 2011 | Volume 10, Issue 4

The discovery of parasite genes required for feeding pore activity opens up several new research directions. For example, development of antimalarial drugs that target these channels could be accelerated. The NIAID team has already found channel inhibitors that kill malaria parasites. They also are exploring how the feeding channel protein is transported from the parasite to the red blood cell membrane, as preventing this transport may be another way to kill malaria parasites.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) International Centers for Excellence in Research (ICER) program was launched in 2002 to develop and sustain research programs in resource-poor countries through partnerships with local scientists. NIAID has developed core programs at the ICER sites - currently located in Mali, Uganda and India - and, over time, has facilitated the expansion of research capacity by training young scientists, improving laboratory and clinical infrastructure, and enhancing information technology capabilities.

The ICER program builds on experience gained from NIAID's long-standing malaria research collaboration with scientists in Mali. Initially, the collaboration focused on the genetics of malaria mosquitoes, but it has expanded significantly over the years.

Today, Malian researchers collaborate with NIAID scientists on multiple projects, including studies on mosquito vectors, malaria drug resistance, and candidate malaria vaccines; research on neglected tropical diseases such as filariasis and leishmaniasis; and immunologic and microbiologic studies of patients co-infected with HIV and tuberculosis. NIAID and Malian colleagues have recently initiated research programs on relapsing fever and Lassa fever.

The ICER site in Uganda, which includes a state-of-the-art field laboratory in the Rakai District and facilities at Makerere University in Kampala and the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe, conducts basic and clinical research on HIV and sexually transmitted infections, including studies on viral pathogenesis, transmission kinetics, treatment and prevention. The ICER site in India, located at the Tuberculosis Research Centre in Chennai, conducts collaborative studies on filariasis and, more recently, on tuberculosis-filarial and HIV-filarial co-infections.

This article was adapted from NIAID Global Research: Improving Health in a Changing World [PDF 7M, 24 pages].

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