UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases has received a $1.2 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center to provide informatics training to Brazilian researchers.
The grant will help a Brazilian ministry of health laboratory (the Centro de Pesquisas René Rachou) develop both the infrastructure and the scientific expertise to apply advanced information management technologies to tropical disease research.
“There is a critical need for training in the area of parasitic diseases,” says Dan Colley, director of CTEGD. “Students trained in bioinformatics in the countries most affected by these diseases will help provide the needed researchers to do future cutting-edge science on these major public health problems.”
The first trainee, computer scientist Adriana de Andrade Oliveira, is slated to arrive at UGA this month.
“We envision training a total of 22 people,” says Jessica Kissinger, assistant professor of genetics at UGA and principal investigator. “The goal isn’t just to train a few people to do something. It is to make this place [the collaborating laboratory in Brazil] self-sustainable by the end of five years.”
Collaborating institutions include UGA, George Washington University and the Brazilian ministry of health laboratories in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.
Participants in this program will come from the laboratory in Belo Horizonte, a research facility that specializes in studies of tropical parasites, their vectors and their hosts. During the five-year project, trainees will develop the analysis infrastructure to support two NIH-funded studies already under way on the parasitic worm that causes schistosomiasis, a tropical disease that affects more than 200 million people worldwide.
The grant will provide trainees with opportunities to work in laboratories at UGA or George Washington University and will support attendance at specialized courses in other parts of the world.
Three annual workshops will be offered in Brazil, and a database containing comprehensive information about the schistosome parasite will be housed at the Belo Horizonte laboratory by the end of the project.
“Informatics is science without borders,” Kissinger says. “There’s no reason that ‘third world countries’ can’t compete on an equal basis with the rest of the world in this field. It’s not often you’re given a chance to do something that you think will make a difference.”