Welcome to the companion website for the upcoming workshop Focus on Africa: Infectious Diseases from Basic Science to New Technologies.  We are very excited for the workshop and we look forward to seeing everyone soon.  Please feel free to explore this website.  We will strive to make sure that the most up-to-date information is installed. Thank you.

Executive Summary

Globally, infectious diseases account for more than 17 million deaths each year with a significant proportion occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Harvard has a long-term history of productive research collaboration with a number of African academic institutions and nongovernmental organizations. While research has often centered on a particular infectious disease entity, it has frequently been multidisciplinary in nature, often with broad implications for global health policy. Workshop participants seek to foster further collaborative research within Harvard and among Harvard’s African colleagues in the broad arena of infectious disease research. The workshop highlights current collaborative efforts in basic science (lab bench research), extending to implementation science work in the field and the incorporation of new technologies for disease prevention, diagnosis, and monitoring. The focus on infectious disease pathogen and host diversity serves as an underlying theme. Participants investigate future directions for infectious disease research, potential multi-country proposals, research on comorbidities, and host-pathogen interactions. Group sessions with early career scientists from Africa will promote further research collaborations.

Workshop Leaders

Phyllis Kanki, DVM, ScD

Dr. Kanki’s research centers on the virology, pathogenesis and molecular epidemiology of HIV in Africa.  Based on long term research collaborations in Senegal for over 24 years, her work provided the initial characterization of HIV-2, demonstrated reduced virulence, transmission and progression to disease and interactions with HIV-1 subtypes from West Africa. In 2000, she created and directed the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (APIN), with a $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  This provided the collaborative foundation for the Harvard President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) providing prevention, care and HIV antiretroviral therapy in Nigeria, Botswana, and Tanzania (2004-2012). To date, in addition to the capacity building for clinical, laboratory and research capabilities, the program has provided treatment for over 150,000 AIDS patients. The program’s operational research deals with HIV diversity and drug resistance, ART adherence and HIV co-infections including tuberculosis and hepatitis infections. Training has been a critical goal of this program and topics have included clinical ART for adults and children, principles of research ethics, laboratory methods, pharmacy, data management and analysis.  These training sessions, workshops and conferences have been given to over 6,000 health care providers in Nigeria alone. The program has built the capacity of over 22 laboratories in Nigerian teaching hospitals and research institutes to provide state of the art HIV diagnosis and monitoring. The University of Ibadan, Nigeria, received a Medical Education Partnership Initiative award from the Fogarty International Center in 2010 for which Dr. Kanki leads the Harvard component of this consortium effort that promotes research capacity at partner medical schools. Currently the NIH is supporting research training programs for junior faculty in MEPI-supported institutions to increase their ability to participate in and carry out locally relevant research which contributes to improved human health. The programs will foster the next generation of faculty researchers in Africa who will provide solutions to global health problems. Dr. Kanki will serve as a co-PI on three new awards funding junior faculty at the University of Jos, University of Lagos College of Medicine, and the University of Ibadan. Dr. Kanki has authored or co-authored over 182 scientific articles and has contributed to 46 books with chapters and as co-editor. Books include AIDS in Africa, editions 1 & 2; AIDS in Nigeria; and A Line Drawn in the Sand: Responses to the AIDS Treatment Crisis in Africa.  

Thumbi Ndung’u, BVM, PhD

Dr. Thumbi Ndung’u, is an Investigator and Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology Research Group Leader at the KwaZulu-Natal Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH).  He is Professor and Victor Daitz Chair in HIV/TB Research and Director of the HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP) at the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal. He holds the South African Research Chair in Systems Biology of HIV/AIDS. He is a Visiting Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard T.H. School of Public Health and an Associate Member of the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. He has previously been recognized with the Edgar Haber award (Harvard University) for outstanding doctoral thesis research, the Prince of Wales Fellowship at Harvard University and by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Council with the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award for exceptional research and research-related scholarly activities. In 2012, Ndung’u was one of the recipients of the inaugural Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Early Career Scientist award.  He is a board Member of the Global Health and Vaccination Research Programme (GLOBVAC), of the Research Council of Norway.

Professor Ndung’u graduated with a degree in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and obtained a PhD in Virology from Harvard University. He then undertook postdoctoral studies in Virology at Harvard Medical School. Professor Ndung’u’s research interests are host-virus interactions, antiviral immune responses and biomedical interventions applicable to resource-limited settings.  He has received grant funding from diverse sources including the National Research Foundation of South Africa, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Global Health Research Initiative, the Max Planck Society and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He leads a multidisciplinary team of researchers working in the fields of HIV and TB pathogenesis and vaccine development.  He has special interest in capacity building for biomedical research in Africa.  He is the Principal Investigator of the Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV research Excellence (SANTHE) network, a consortium funded by the Wellcome Trust to strengthen South-South partnerships in HIV and TB research across 12 African research sites, and to train the next-generation leaders of African science and create enabling environments for excellence in research and collaboration in Africa.