American Society for Cell Biology Kicks Off Parasitology Course in Tanzania for African Scientists

The First in a Three-Year Outreach Effort to Teach New Ideas and Technologies

BETHESDA, MD – Protozoan parasites – like Plasmodium which causes malaria or trypanosomes which give rise to sleeping sickness – will be the focus when the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) kicks off a new international scientific outreach program this month. The ASCB "short course" in Tanzania is supported by a new three-year $506,800 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. This course will be a cooperative effort with scientists from Sokoine University in Tanzania and the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (SBRI) in the U.S. Aimed at advanced students of biology and medicine plus young faculty from African universities, the course will bring new perspectives and new technologies to emerging research institutions in sub-Saharan Africa.

Modern cell biology is not yet widely taught in Africa, explains J. Richard McIntosh, a member of the ASCB International Affairs Committee (IAC) and principal investigator for the Carnegie grant. Yet new advances in the discipline have revolutionized research in major threats to human health and well-being. Protozoan parasites that cause crippling and lethal diseases in East Africa are a good example of such threats. This course, like those planned to follow, will provide valuable, cell-based know-how, materials, and technologies to African researchers.

The first course–held July 17-20 at Sokoine University in Morogoro, Tanzania—will be followed by a second ASCB short course at a West African university in 2009. Additional workshops and courses will take place in future years. Other course locations will be selected in partnership with sub-Saharan African universities. The sites to be selected will be ones where faculty has already succeeded in modernizing some facilities and providing aspects of an up-to-date education in biology. ASCB will provide technology and training with its courses to help talented and enterprising African scientists expand and deepen the job they have already begun, sometimes against stiff odds.

Sokoine University is an excellent example, according to McIntosh. It has hosted several previous courses on the molecular biology and immunology of malaria through a partnership between the SBRI and Morogoro Regional Hospital. "By taking advantage of existing infrastructure and logistical support, the ASCB can both contribute to putting on an excellent course and learn by collaborating with the experienced faculty of Sokoine and the SBRI, as IAC members jump-start the African teaching project," McIntosh explains.

The Sokoine short course will be taught by scientist-volunteers from both SBRI and ASCB. Besides McIntosh (University of Colorado), other instructors will include Patrick Duffy (SBRI), Eva Gluenz (Oxford University), Keith Gull (Oxford University), Mahasin Osman (Cornell), David Roos (University of Pennsylvania), Marilyn Parson (SBRI), and William Wickstead (Oxford). Paul Gwakisa will host the short course for Sokoine University.

For more information, contact ASCB Executive Director Joan Goldberg at (301) 347-9300.

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