HIV TB: U.S. medical institute, UKZN in joint research programme

2011-05-12 00:00

THE Kwazulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) has awarded a total of R1,7 million to 18 South African scientists and science students for tuberculosis (TB) and HIV research purposes country wide.

Applications for the funding were invited last year and qualifying recipients were notified early this year.

The aim of the funding is to conduct “outstanding basic science research” on TB and HIV, translate the scientific findings into new tools to control the diseases, and expand the educational opportunities in the country, said K-RITH director, Professor William Bishai, yesterday.

The Institute is linked to the University of KwaZulu-Natal and was established in 2008 as a collaboration between the university and the American based Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

UKZN and HHMI have a 10-year agreement in which the latter has committed about $60 million (R410,6 million) to the research institute and $10 million to the university for TB and HIV research purposes.

“We wanted this programme to foster more crosstalk between the TB and HIV research communities and to indicate our willingness to be part of that collaboration,” said Bishai.

All the research proposals submitted by the recipients were reviewed by top scientists and educators from South Africa, Europe and the United States.

“We want to help find ways to come together and identify projects that can benefit the TB and HIV research community as a whole.

“These promising students will tackle important basic science research projects, such as the role of specific immune system receptors in HIV infection, as well as clinically important research, such as the occupational risk for TB among healthcare workers,” said Bishai.

Eight South African master’s and doctoral students have benefited from the project.

K-RITH director of education and training, Victoria Kasprowicz, said this will make a difference to SA’s shortage of medical researchers and scientists.

“We hope through these science researches we will find solutions that will benefit those afflicted by the HIV-TB co-epidemic, particularly the poor and vulnerable,” she said.

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