Tulane receives millions for international health and tropical medicine research


Tulane University public health researchers are slated to receive over $7 million to support international health research. Carl Kendall, professor of international health and development at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and parasitologist Paul Brindley, professor of tropical medicine at the school, received notification of their awards despite the disruption of Hurricane Katrina.

Kendall will receive $4.1 million to fund the third year of work the Department of International Health and Development and the Payson Center have been doing in support of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The project, a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control, provides staff, training and technical assistance in monitoring and evaluation to Atlanta and to countries with US government assisted projects conducting surveillance, HIV/AIDS prevention and rolling out antiretroviral medications in Angola, Brazil, Haiti, South Africa, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Although planning and application for these resources began in July, the award was still pending when Katrina hit. Within a week of the storm, Kendall flew to Atlanta to reassure CDC of Tulane's ability to continue project activities. There, with the active support of ORC-MACRO (an opinion research corporation) and CDC, he established a satellite office with two staff: Roxane Johnson and Dawne Walker. David Cotton, vice-president of ORC-MACRO, arranged for the company to provide free office space, telephone and internet support.

Tulane staff were able to respond to requests from CDC Atlanta, communicate with overseas staff and partners, and move the project forward. All through the crisis, Tulane received unprecedented pledges of support from CDC, other partners, and in many cases, competitors.

"Although we received many condolences and best wishes, the award reflects the hard work of our Atlanta-based staff and the ability of our field staff, Dr. Wuleta Lemma in Ethiopia, Dr. Tom Scialfa in Rwanda, Ana Perez Zaldivar in Angola and Otilia St.Charles (Haiti, but currently evacuated to Atlanta) to keep the program running. In case of Dr. Wuleta Lemma, her dedication to the maintaining the work of the program led her to spend her own money during the interim," says Kendall.

Brindley has been awarded $2.7 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious, NIH, diseases for a five-year cooperative study of liver cancer due to liver fluke infection. The research team will work in Khon Kaen, a region of Thailand with the highest rate of liver fluke induced cancer in the world. Twenty million people are infected with liver flukes, which have been linked with the development of liver cancer. Southeast Asia has a very high rate of liver cancer due to liver fluke infection, says Brindley. The aims of the research will be to identify the cancer causing molecules excreted by liver flukes and to analyze the severity of tissue inflammation that precedes the development of liver cancer.

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