Amplifying the possibilities: Long awaited new PCR equipment arrives in Karachi

After a long wait, a piece of vital equipment, the “CFX96 Touch™ Real-Time PCR Detection System”, co-funded by the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and the University of Karachi, has now arrived at the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS).  The machine (a white box with screen – visible in the right of the picture) now enables Network members Iqbal Choudhary, Sammer Yousuf and the Karachi team to use the polymerase chain reaction technique (PCR) DNA amplifying technology to identify genetic variations between strains of Leishmania parasites, causing leishmaniasis.  This purchase is also a behind-the-scenes administrative triumph for international collaboration, highlighting some of the bureaucratic difficulties we navigate with our NTD Network colleagues in developing countries.
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Second CGID meeting in Newcastle: Sharing enthusiasm and insights for infectious diseases research

The second Centre for Global Infectious Diseases (CGID) annual meeting, a joint venture Durham University and the University of Newcastle, took place today at the Newcastle Medical School, hosted by our colleagues from the Newcastle University Fungal Research team.  This year’s programme showcased some of the engaging research into global infections that takes place across the northeast UK, and gave particular emphasis to early career researchers working on globally-significant diseases, many of which impact developing countries.  … Continue reading

Extending our capacity: Bringing CRISPR technology to parasitologists in Asia

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.

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Off the well-trodden path: Ribeirão Preto’s forest offers diverse potential new drug solutions

Prior to delivering a workshop at the University of São Paolo (USP) Ribeirão Preto campus, UK Network members Patrick Steel, Paul Denny, Ehmke Pohl and colleagues from USP and Durham University, spent a day exploring.  The Serra da Canastra national park in Minas Gerais, the origin of the São Francisco river, is home to a tropical and scrubby forest, known to these scientists as USP professor Noberto Lopes’ “chemical hunting ground”.  The workshop, “Development and evaluation of bioactive compounds” (March 25th-29th 2019; funded by Brazil’s Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) ‘SPRINT’ initiative), equipped ~40 Brazilian postgraduate students with skills to source novel chemicals from plants, fungi and animals.  USP’s natural products library already holds many naturally-sourced compounds new to science, but more are needed – as leads for new medicines to treat the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) affecting Brazil and other developing countries.  On this hot day, the team veer off a well-trodden path to go exploring in the forest, taking in spectacular waterfalls and an impromptu swim.

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One small box, two big smiles: New equipment for Chagas disease research arrives in Rosario

February 20th, 2019, and Dr Julia Cricco (right) gathers her research team at the National University of Rosario (UNR), Argentina, to greet the new arrival; a small, grey box…  This unremarkable-looking machine is a ‘Nucleofector’ from Lonza, purchased with Equipment Fund support from the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).  This device will transform the speed at which Julia’s group can progress towards identifying valid biological targets for developing new drugs against Chagas disease.  The arrival of this one small box is therefore much celebrated, provoking excitement and big smiles all round!

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Great work: NTD Network PhD student in Brazil wins poster prize

Congratulations to NTD Network PhD student Mr Douglas Escrivani Olivera, winner of the Zigman Brener award!
Douglas is studying for a PhD; he is based with NTD Network member Professor Bartira Rossi-Bergmann at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and is co-supervised by Professor Patrick Steel, from Durham University, UK.
The Zigman Brenner award for best research poster is given annually at the Annual Meeting of the Brazilian Society of Parasitology (SBPz)/XLV AnnualMeeting on Basic Research in Chagas’ Disease, held in November each year in Cazambu, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

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The Road to Caxambu: A gathering and mini symposium recalling the origins of the NTD Network

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 

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Tryps, drugs, (metabolism) and rock ‘n’ roll: An interview with Ariel Silber

“I always said there were two things I’d never do: 

parasites and metabolism!”

Professor Ariel Silber, from the University of São Paulo (USP), the NTD Network hub leader for South America, laughs as he recalls himself as an impetuous undergraduate.  Ariel is a specialist in trypanosomes (Tryps); single-celled parasites causing the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness.  We are catching up over a coffee during his visit with Durham NTD Network members.

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