SAUDI ARABIA-UK: New centre to tackle global disease

Saudi Arabia is to establish an international training and research centre in Jizan to advance global efforts to control infectious diseases, with the cooperation of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the Innovative Vector Control Consortium.

A four-year agreement was signed with LSTM and IVCC, both based in Liverpool in the UK, earlier this month.

Janet Hemingway (pictured), LSTM director and CEO of IVCC, said it would be the first major centre in the Middle East dedicated to cutting-edge research in infectious diseases. She said "rapid recognition" as a centre of excellence, regionally and internationally, was anticipated.

The centre will focus initially on vector borne diseases, malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis and then extend to other diseases such as tuberculosis. The aim will be to find innovative ways to monitor, evaluate and control vector borne diseases. An Arabic version of the Malaria Decision Support System will be developed for the Arab speaking world.

"The education programmes cover a very broad mixture of short courses, diplomas, masters (taught and research) and PhDs. The short courses and diplomas will be issued by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The masters and PhDs will be issued by the University of Liverpool," Hemingway said.

The first phase will focus on recruitment and training of professional staff and development of a cutting-edge laboratory facility in Jizan.

The Saudi Ministry of Health will provide US$5.5 million as seed funding and will lead efforts to raise the additional $21.5 million needed for infrastructure, education programmes and research activities.

According to the World Health Report, around 15 million of 57 million annual deaths worldwide are the direct result of infectious disease.

In another development, LSTM on 29 March launched a five-year $16.9 million collaborative project, AvecNet to control the spread of malaria in Africa through the development of new insecticides and techniques for overcoming the growing threat of insecticide resistance, as well as designing new tools and interventions to target mosquitoes that currently evade control methods.

The AvecNet project involves 16 partners in Africa and Europe and is funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework programme.

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