The University of Warwick, UK, has been awarded £2m (~€2.2m) for a project which aims to tackle the spread of viral disease in East Africa.
The project, NIHR Global Health Research Group on the Application of Genomics and Modelling to the Control of Virus Pathogens (GeMVi) in East Africa, aims to increase the use of modern sequencing, bioinformatic and modelling tools to support interventions against the spread of viral disease in East Africa.
It will see a collaboration with new partners in East Africa with similar interests, including Uganda Virus Research Institute and Makerere University, Uganda, and Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute, Tanzania. Researchers chose to look at this geographic area as it has previously suffered from lack of opportunity, funding and specific skills and technology.
What modern methods are available?
James Nokes, who is professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Warwick and is based at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP), said: “In this field, despite high disease burden, low-income countries have been left behind.
“Decisions on how to prevent, reduce or constrain disease arising from viruses (e.g. seasonal or pandemic influenza) require evidence on the pathogen responsible, where it came from, how effectively it spreads, and the potential implications of various interventions.
“Modern methods are now available to rapidly identify and sequence the genetic code of a virus by which, together with epidemiological data (e.g. time and location of cases), to track from where it came and how it is spreading, and with statistical and mathematical methods, explore the potential impact of options for control that can support public health control measures.”
What will GeMVi do with the new funding?
Matt Keeling, professor of life sciences and director of the University of Warwick’s Zeeman Institute, added: “GeMVi will engage health authorities and institutes, identify priority questions and link output to policy.
“We will also fund 20 high-calibre research fellows on locally relevant projects. These include transfer sequencing technologies such as next-generation sequencing, sharing bioinformatic methods and developing modelling capacity. We also aim to generate new understanding through predictive modelling and virus sequence data.
“Ultimately, GeMVi aims at provision of evidence for intervention decisions, a sustainable collaborative network in the region, and an alliance on virus prevention and control preparedness.”