Center for Global Health to lead international research initiative in Papua New Guinea

The Forgarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health has recently awarded $1.25 million to scientists at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine and the Center for Global Health and Diseases to renew an educational program in infectious disease research training with collaborating institutions in Papua New Guinea.

This program, co-directed by Peter Zimmerman, professor of international health, biology and genetics, and Peter Siba, director, Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR), extends a 29-year history of productive ID research collaborations between CWRU and PNGIMR initiated by James Kazura and former PNGIMR Director Michael Alpers. CWRU collaborators on this renewed Fogarty Training grant include Christopher Cullis, chairman of the Department of Biology, and Scott Frank, director of the Master’s of Public Health Program. The program adds expertise in entomology through collaboration with Edward Walker and Ernest Delfosse, chairman of the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University. Renewal of this training program was announced at PNG’s National Medical Research Symposium in early September.

The School of Medicine and College of Arts and Sciences, as well as MSU’s Department of Entomology, have contributed significant institutional support to this ID Training Program.

Phase I of the Program (2005-2010) supported one-year undergraduate honors thesis projects on infectious disease research including mosquito resistance to insecticides, malnutrition, drug resistant tuberculosis and a range of studies focused on malaria.  During this time 23 students finished their Bachelor of Science Honors thesis projects; 5 completed or are nearing completion of Masters of Medical Science requirements. Results of the students’ research have been published in the Malaria Journal, the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and Clinical Infectious Diseases. Many of these students have received awards to present their ID research findings at international scientific meetings and scholarships to continue their graduate education in Europe, Australia, Japan and the United States.

Three of these students received Fulbright International Scholarships to pursue master’s degrees in the United States: two at CWRU and one at Michigan State University. These students provided the inspiration for the renewal proposal submitted in November 2010. In Phase II of this ID Research Training Program (2011-2016) students will receive two years of support to pursue graduate degrees in biology or public health at CWRU or in entomology at MSU.

PNG students who are part of the first in-take cohort include Krufinta Bun and Barne Willie at CWRU and John Keven at MSU.