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Office of International Affairs announce winners of faculty seed grants

April 29, 2014
Image credit: "USAMRUK Malaria Diagnostics and Control Center of Excellence microscopy training - Nigeria, Africa 092009" by U.S. Army Africa is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In recent years, there has been a buzz about the uses of technology and reaching millions of people around the world. Today, we use technologies like Skype or Google+ to speak and see people thousands of miles away.  Nevertheless, there are still undeniable and unquantifiable benefits to physical proximity especially in the complex world of research collaboration.  As a result of a series of faculty focus group meetings convened by the Office of International Affairs (OIA), we learned of the many challenges that faculty face when conducting international research, one of which is the need to increase bilateral cooperation with international partners

To meet the needs of faculty collaborating with partners from developing countries, OIA called for proposals to invite collaborators to campus for the purpose of either initiating a new collaboration or taking an existing collaboration to the next level. The proposals required that collaborators come from a group of countries that were identified as either a least developed country (LDC) by the United Nations or a low to low middle income country (LIC or LMIC) by the World Bank.

Six (6) proposals for up to $10,000 were granted to support travel and a stipend for living expenses (lodging, food, and incidentals) for faculty collaborators for a minimum two-week visit. Three of the selected proposals are from the School of Medicine; two from the School of Humanities and Sciences; and one from the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Diagnostic Testing for Infectious Diseases of Global Health Importance

This award will support the collaboration between the laboratories of Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, in the Stanford University School of Medicine Departments of Pathology and Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Wellington Oyibo, Director of the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation Centre of Excellence for Malaria Diagnosis in Lagos, Nigeria. Drs. Pinsky and Oyibo share an interest in the development of improved diagnostic testing for infectious diseases of global health importance, including dengue and malaria.

Dengue virus, the causative agent of dengue fever, and Plasmodium species, the causative agents of malaria, are the most common mosquito-borne human pathogens worldwide. These pathogens account for ~700 million infections annually, resulting in nearly 700,000 deaths. Over 3 billion people live in endemic regions and are at risk for infection. Importantly, the presenting complaints of patients with dengue and malaria are non-specific and cannot reliably be differentiated from the numerous other causes of fever in endemic areas. Therefore, accurate and sensitive detection of these agents are critical to optimize public health surveillance and clinical decision-making, particularly the appropriate use of anti-malarial and anti-bacterial drugs.  If a patient is misdiagnosed with malaria (or simply assumed to have malaria without diagnostic testing), they receive unnecessary anti-malarial therapy.  Not only do these drugs have side-effects, the patient may have some other treatable, life threatening infection.

The Pinsky laboratory has developed highly sensitive molecular diagnostic tests for dengue and malaria, as well as other infectious diseases that present with similar symptoms, including leptospirosis, chikungunya fever, yellow fever, rift valley fever, and Zika fever. This award will be used to fund a fellow from the Oyibo lab to receive training in the Pinsky lab in the performance and analysis of these tests, with the goal of implementing these tests in Nigeria.  It is their hope that this diagnostic capacity building will improve understanding of dengue and malaria incidence and epidemiology in Nigeria, provide the basis for analysis of the clinical and public health impact of this testing, and result in better overall care of patients with infectious diseases in Nigeria and other countries where these pathogens are endemic.

The next round of seed grants for international research will be offered again in early Fall 2014.  Bookmark our website, or follow us on Twitter, @StanfordOIA, to receive news on the next round of funding. The complete list of OIA Winter 2014 faculty seed grant recipients are:

School of Medicine

Julie Parsonnet and Dr. Kaniz Katun-e-Jannat from the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research in Dhaka, Bangladesh will assess probiotics intervention in malnourished children.

Benjamin Pinsky and Dr. Wellington Oyibo from The University of Lagos in Nigeria (see above).

Abby King and Dr. Felicia Canete from the Ministry of Health of Paraguay will build on the “health without borders” approach and develop chronic disease prevention research in a low-middle income country.

School of Humanities and Sciences

Elizabeth Hadly and Kashish Das Shrestha from Nepal, to present Maintaining Humanity's Life Support Systems in the 21st Century, a consensus statement written at the request of California Governor Jerry Brown, at a national event with high level politicians and policy makers to endorse the document.

Richard Zare and Professor G. Jagadeesh from the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India will further droplet chemistry fusion research.

Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Helen Stacy and Ohnmar Ei Ei Chaw from the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region in Myanmar will further the technical aspects of research and data analysis and contribute to consolidating links between the Stanford project, Bay Area scholars and the Myanmar experts and activists.