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A Global Approach to Global Problems
FROM AVIAN FLU TO SARS, today's headlines regularly highlight new outbreaks of disease around the world. Add the persistent presence of malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, and countless other infectious and parasitic diseases, and the challenges to world health seem truly staggering.
To support researchers abroad who address such challenges, HHMI recently awarded $17.5 million to 42 outstanding scientists in 20 countries. Their research, which in diverse ways tackles the mysteries of the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying infectious and parasitic disease, could have a great impact on public health around the world. It may lead, for example, to the identification of potential drug targets and the development of vaccines.
Among this distinguished group of HHMI international research scholars is Grant McFadden, a virologist at Canada's University of Western Ontario. His award will support the ongoing study of molecular mechanisms by which viruses disarm host immune systems and cross species barriers—such as when avian flu migrates from birds to infect humans.
Another grantee is Rajesh S. Gokhale, a dedicated young scientist who, despite attractive job offers in the United States, chose to return to his native India. Gokhale studies the "enzymatic crosstalk" by which Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes tuberculosis, modulates the proteins and lipids of its cell walls in response to varying environmental circumstances. The results of his work could help explain the subtle ways by which the pathogen generates different, and sometimes not-so-subtle, individual reactions.
A Swiss researcher, Gisou van der Goot, wants to better understand the mechanisms by which anthrax toxin manages to delay the onset of normal immune responses. Using a variety of biological, morphological, and biochemical techniques, including an RNAi screen, she analyzes the molecular systems that govern the delivery and presentation of the toxin and its enzymes in the cell.
Nearly 500 scientists in 62 countries applied for the 5-year awards, from which HHMI selected its 42 winners. They hail from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Mali, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, and Uruguay. Each researcher will receive $350,000 to $500,000 over 5 years.
Half of these awards are for first-time HHMI grant recipients, and the other 21 are current HHMI international research scholars. Since 1991, HHMI has awarded more than $100 million to support scientists in 32 countries.
Illustration: Catalone Design