Athens, Ga. – A University of Georgia series that imports speakers from around the world now turns the spotlight on Daniel G. Colley, who recently landed an $18.7 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, marking the first time that a UGA investigator has been featured in the popular Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard series. Colley will speak on Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 5 p.m. in the UGA Chapel.
Colley will use the Gates Foundation grant in his 40-year battle against schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease that stunts development and saps life from children and adults around the world. In a lecture titled “Schistosomiasis: What 200 million people have that you don’t,” the UGA professor of microbiology will outline how he and his collaborators plan to combat this insidious disease, which is common in Africa and parts of Asia, South America and the Middle East. Several varieties of disease-carrying parasitic worms colonize freshwater snails, which in turn contaminate water used by humans.
Once they enter the human bloodstream, “schistosomes live Mr. Spock’s credo – they ‘live long and prosper,'” said Colley, director of the UGA’s Center of Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases.
These organisms persist in human blood vessels for as long as 40 years, interfering with normal growth and development during childhood and gradually damaging major organs as people age.
Although schistosomiasis has a relatively low mortality rate compared with some other tropical diseases, it causes a great deal of human misery. Drug treatment can slow transmission and reduce suffering, but deploying existing medicines and developing new ones have proved difficult. The Gates grant puts new muscle into this effort, with Colley as the leader of a multi-disciplinary, multi-institution team whose members come from the U.S., South America, Europe and Africa.
“Dan Colley is a rockstar,” said Patricia Thomas, Knight Chair of Health and Medical Journalism at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Thomas has partnered with Colley in presenting the Voices from the Vanguard series since 2006. “He organized an international SWAT team against schistosomiasis, bringing Gates Foundation resources to bear on a disease often overshadowed by AIDS, malaria and other high-profile infections,” she said.
Less than one month after the grant was announced, Colley was selected as one of 25 top advocates for greater U.S. investment in global health research. He has been named to Research!America’s Paul Rogers Society for Global Health Research, meaning that he’ll be lobbying Congress when he isn’t teaching and conducting research.
“The University of Georgia is proud of Dan Colley and his international leadership in addressing neglected tropical diseases,” said UGA Vice President for Research David Lee.
The 2009 Voices from the Vanguard series continues on March 17 with a lecture by veteran HIV/AIDS researcher Barney Graham, chief of clinical trials at the NIH Vaccine Research Center. The series concludes on April 14 with Jennifer Friedman, a physician-scientist from Brown University who battles parasitic diseases in children. All lectures will be held at 5 p.m. in the UGA Chapel, followed by a reception next door at Demosthenian Hall.
The “Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard” lecture series, now in its fourth year, is a joint effort of Grady College’s Knight Chair and Colley, director of UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. For additional information, see www.grady.uga.edu/knighthealth