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Grantee studies nanotechnology to help eradicate tuberculosis

November / December 2020 | Volume 19, Number 6

Q and A with Admire Dube, PhD

Dr. Admire Dube working in a lab.

Admire Dube, PhD

Dr. Admire Dube is a pharmacist by training and an associate professor of pharmaceutics at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. His specialty is nanotechnology research. He completed postdoctoral training with Fogarty support at the University at Buffalo, where he conducted studies on the potential of nanomedicines to treat tuberculosis (TB). This work laid the foundation for his successful application to Fogarty’s Emerging Global Leader program. Subsequently, he and two collaborators received a research grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to continue this work.

What did you gain from Fogarty training?

Firstly, the training helped me define the focus of my current research. I initiated research into nanomedicines for the treatment of TB at this time. I gained exposure to various types of nanoparticles, various characterization tools, as well as grant writing skills. My seminal research paper to date was generated during this training period. The training also prepared me to establish my laboratory and secure research funding. This has proved invaluable to my career trajectory, as I have been able to establish a nanomedicine for infectious diseases laboratory here in South Africa, and to secure NIH grants from Fogarty and NIAID.

What is the significance of your research?

In terms of research, I'm working on a project that is using nanoparticles to engineer, or control, an individual’s immune system in order to fight off TB infection. In a sense, I'm using nanoparticles to make an immunotherapy. The hope is that the host immune cells can then eradicate the TB causing pathogen without the use of drugs.

We’re avoiding the use of conventional antibiotics and instead making these immunotherapies. In my lab, specifically, I'm synthesizing these nanoparticles and characterizing them. We then perform tests in cells and mice infected with TB. This is the next step. We plan to publish research next year that shows that nanoparticles can be effective in killing TB within a cell. The cell becomes hostile to this bacteria and once it's hostile, the bacteria can’t survive within that cell.

What else have you learned?

We’ve already started administering these nanoparticles to mice which are infected with TB. We are putting these nanoparticles into the lungs of the mice directly because TB is a pulmonary disease. We're then going to see whether the immune system of the mice is activated. As a pharmacist, a lot of my expertise is in making nanoparticles. My new training in immunology helped me tag these nanoparticles, bringing the two aspects together so now we can develop immunotherapies.

How has Fogarty impacted your career path?

My Fogarty award is probably the best thing that has happened in my career because it provided me the protected time to concentrate on my research.

Admire Dube, PhD

My Fogarty award is probably the best thing that has happened in my career because it provided me the protected time to concentrate on my research. In so doing, I've now been able to establish my research lab focused on nanoparticles and tuberculosis. I’ve been able to attract other funding as well, which has led to local and international collaborations with notable scientists where we synthesize and test various nanoparticles. Now that we have our NIAID grant we plan to look at different kinds of nanoparticles.

I think the Emerging Global Leader program is an excellent funding mechanism for early career researchers. It is quite important for researchers to conduct research that is relevant to their local context, something that is afforded by this program. The personal development through mentorship has been great. Additionally, while I'm being mentored, I am mentoring others. I’ve also been promoted from senior lecturer to associate professor, so I’ve been able to progress in my career as well as receive funding to conduct this exciting science involving tuberculosis and nanotechnology, something that I’m passionate about doing. There’s nothing better than getting to spend time on what you really enjoy!

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