Research into neglected tropical diseases that cause suffering among some of the world’s poorest communities has been given a much-needed boost by a multi-million pound grant to a specialist team at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS).
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has awarded the Global Health research team at BSMS a £5.7 million four-year award to establish a global research unit at BSMS. The grant includes support for seven major projects across three often-neglected NTDs: podoconiosis, mycetoma and scabies.
Podoconiosis is a progressive and disabling form of leg swelling often seen in barefoot farmers, mycetoma a slow-growing, destructive infection of the skin and underlying tissues, and scabies a profoundly irritating infectious skin condition caused by tiny mites burrowing into the skin which occurs in outbreaks in vulnerable communities. All three conditions are mostly ignored by other research groups.
The seven projects will be carried out in collaboration with three overseas partners: CDT-Africa at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia; the Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and the Mycetoma Research Centre, University of Khartoum, Sudan.
Expertise within the Global Health team will be expanded through new senior posts in Health Economics and Social Science. The unit, to be known as the ‘NIHR Global Health Research Unit for NTDs at BSMS’, will also provide opportunities for six new postdoctoral research fellows and eight PhD students.
Professor Melanie Newport and Professor Gail Davey, co-Directors of the new unit, welcomed the announcement. Professor Newport said: “We are looking forward to applying the experience we’ve already developed as a cross-disciplinary research group to these highly neglected conditions, and to bringing in complementary research skills.”
Professor Davey added: “This grant will mean we can push forward podoconiosis research at a much greater pace and I am excited by the opportunity to work with young scientists from Ethiopia and Sudan – both countries that are heavily affected by NTDs.”