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Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

The latest study and research news from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)

April 2011

Liverpool–Saudi Arabia infectious disease research venture launched

A delegation from The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health (KSA MOH), accompanied by the Ambassador of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have visited Liverpool to mark the launch of a new venture with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC).

With US$5.5 million as seed funding from the KSA MOH, the three organisations have established a joint research centre in Jazan, Saudi Arabia, with the mission of improving health through cutting edge research that will result in the development and delivery of innovative ways to control, monitor and evaluate insect borne diseases such as malaria and dengue which are a major threat in the gulf region and around the world.

The KSA Minister of Health His Excellency Dr Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Rabeeah and The Ambassador, His Excellency HRH Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz and their delegation toured LSTM and met key staff before visiting the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the Town Hall, where they were received by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool.

His Excellency was also presented with the Mary Kingsley Medal, the highest award which LSTM can bestow, in recognition of the Minister’s outstanding contributions to medicine through his expertise in the separation of conjoined twins and in recognition of his vision in facilitating the establishment of the new centre.

‘We are very excited about this new venture with two world class leaders in research and development in infectious diseases,’ said Dr Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Rabeeah. ‘The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is committed to advancing our country’s scientific capabilities in order to contribute to improve health nationally, regionally and globally.’

LSTM Director and CEO of IVCC, Professor Janet Hemingway, added that the Joint Centre will rapidly establish an international standard research portfolio by utilizing the strengths in Liverpool and from within the IVCC to seed the joint centre and making provision for capacity development at PhD, Masters and short course level to expand the cadre of qualified staff that the centre can draw on.

‘We applaud the commitment and vision of the Saudi Ministry of Health,’ said Professor Hemingway. ‘The Centre will not only be a research institute of the highest international standard, it will push forward the frontiers of science in order to make an important contribution to global health. We look forward to helping to nurture talents from the region and learn from their experience and knowledge.’

The first phase of the joint venture will start immediately with the recruitment and training of professional staff and development of a cutting-edge laboratory facility in Jazan. The first major joint project will be to develop an Arabic version of the Malaria Decision Support System for the Arab speaking world.

The majority of the Centre’s activity will focus on conducting high quality translational research in vector borne disease control to generate new control tools, diagnostics and IT systems relevant to the national and regional programmes. With a special focus on malaria and dengue, operational research that optimises prevention and treatment methods will also be a priority. The Saudi Ministry of Health, supported by LSTM, will lead the effort in raising the additional US$21.5 million needed for infrastructure, education programs and research activities. Though the agreement is for 4 years, the partners view this initial collaboration as the beginning of a long-term mutually beneficial collaboration and anticipate its continuation post 2015.

‘Our vision is to develop the Joint Research Centre as a regional centre of excellence where we have a pool of world-class scientists. Science, technology and education have always been considered as key for the growth and prosperity of our Kingdom,’ declared Dr Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Rabeeah. ‘Our hope is that this partnership will also produce a step change in our ability to fight and eliminate deadly diseases in our region and around the world.’

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