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Funding for neglected diseases

11th February 2008

Funding for research into neglected tropical diseases like schistosomiasis, river blindness and elephantiasis has been given a boost with a new initiative by European groups.

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Under the scheme, African scientists will carry out biomedical or public health research into neglected diseases, which also include the filariases, helminthes, Buruli ulcer, bacterial meningitis and viral diarrhoea.

The funding will be sourced from the African Fellowship Programme on Neglected Tropical Diseases. It was conceived by the German-based Volkswagen Foundation, based on consultations with African medical researchers.

It is also supported by the Nuffield Foundation, the Merieux Foundation of France and the Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal.

Sarah Lock, Commonwealth Programme Coordinator at the UK-based Nuffield Foundation, which has committed US$500,000 to the scheme, said the project aimed to build up a cadre of African researchers in the field, and to use them as a basis from which to found research centres.

Under the programme, African postdoctoral scientists and students completing their PhDs can apply for research fellowships.

Awards of up to US$130,000 are available for both pure scientific research on the effectiveness of various drugs, and research into treatment delivery systems. The latter might include researching drug resistance and how it arises in certain populations, or healthcare administration structures and social anthropology; for example a situation in which cheap drugs were available, but were still not being delivered.

There are potential places available for up to 20 fellows. The scheme will also deliver training in important skills like proposal writing and making presentations.

Fellows will also be given funding up to a maximum of US$15,000 to spend on building and maintaining ties with leading scientists in their field, either at home or overseas, African or non-African.

Such a mentorship programme would be led by the African fellows themselves, rather than administered top-down by the funding body.

Applications close on March 31, after which shortlisted candidates will attend an international conference in Mali on neglected diseases in September, at which they will present their current work.

The fellowships will be awarded after consultation with international experts attending the conference at the end of the year or beginning of 2009.


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