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Two million pounds awarded to fight disease in East Africa

• Project to engage health authorities and institutes, identify priority questions and link output to policy

• Will also fund 20 high calibre Research Fellows

The University of Warwick has been awarded £2million to tackle the spread of viruses in East Africa.

The award has been made to the NIHR Global Health Research Group on the Application of Genomics and Modelling to the Control of Virus Pathogens (GeMVi) in East Africa at the University of Warwick. 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.

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) said: “In this field, despite high disease burden, low income countries have been left behind.

lab

“Decisions on how to prevent, reduce or constrain disease arising from viruses (e.g. seasonal or pandemic influenza), requires evidence on the pathogen responsible, where it came from, how effectively it spreads, and the potential implications of various interventions.

“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), to track 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.”

The researchers chose to look at this geographic area as it has previously suffered from lack of opportunity, funding and specific skills and technology. The research will 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.

“We will also 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. We also 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).

5 July 2018

Notes to editors

This research was commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research using Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research. Established by the Department of Health and Social Care, the NIHR:

• funds high quality research to improve health

• trains and supports health researchers

• provides world-class research facilities

• works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all

• involves patients and the public at every step For further information, visit the NIHR website www.nihr.ac.uk

For more information contact Nicola Jones, Media Relations Manager, University of Warwick N.Jones.1@warwick.ac.uk or 07920531221

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Luke Walton, International Press Manager
University of Warwick
+44 (0) 7824 540 863
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