This March, 2019, a diverse group of 28 students gathered at Kolkata’s Indian Institute for Chemical Biology, for a workshop providing practical skills in genetic manipulation of Leishmania parasites using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. These new skills will transform their careers, and in time may improve the lives of people affected by leishmaniasis, a global problem which poses a risk to the lives of millions of people in India and Pakistan alone.
The 5-hour road trip from Sao Paulo to the Brazilian Society for Protozoology (SBPz) annual meeting 2018, held in Caxambu, Minas Gerais, through spectacular mountains, traces a route towards the beginnings of what is now the NTD Network. Dr Paul Denny (Durham University) was first invited here some 10 years ago, as part of an SBPz initiative to gather an international line up of speakers at their annual meeting. This sparked a long-term association, initially between representatives from SBPz and the Borishi Society for Parasitology (BS). This year, Paul and other Network members from the UK NTD Network joined our partners from South America and others from the UK for a HUB meeting held during the SBPz conference at Cazambu, followed by a satellite mini-symposium, organised and hosted by Professor Ariel Silber (our South American HUB lead), at the University of Sao Paulo.
Resercher training in Rio: Using CRISPR to illuminate new solutions for two old, ‘invisible’ diseases
July, 2018; and as the cool of evening descends over Rio de Janeiro, 22 young researchers from South America and the UK gather, excited and a little nervous, to meet each other and their tutors for the next 5 days. The teaching team of 9 international experts are here to provide training in use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology in trypanosomes (Tryps), the parasites that cause the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) and leishmaniasis. The students’ excitement is justified; their new skills will transform their professional lives, and may also be life-changing for many of the ~0.5 billion people worldwide at risk from these infections.1-4
It is a hot May afternoon in Lucknow; members of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) take a break from the first ‘Hub leader’s meeting’, escaping the heat and throat-catching pollution to the tranquil gardens of the Bara Imambara (‘Court of the Imam’) and its famous maze, Bhul Bhulaiya. The Network’s aim is to find targets for new drugs to treat two NTDs, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis. The venue today seems apt; not only are these infections a vast biological puzzle, but also, behind the scenes, the Network’s 14 institutions are currently negotiating a maze of bureaucratic red tape to ratify the necessary legal requirements which will allow them to commence their international programme of collaborative work.
A Burns night inauguration for the team to tame the ‘tim’rous beasties’ of Chagas disease and leishmaniasis