This year, HHMI undertook a major new program that will marshal its expertise in basic biomedical research to attack a major global health challenge. Together with the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, HHMI will develop a world-class research facility focused on the deadly intersection of tuberculosis and HIV on the campus of the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine. The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) represents a commitment of some $60 million over the next 10 years and will also help support the training of a new generation of African scientists.
Worldwide, HHMI supports 104 International Research Scholars. One group is based in the Baltics, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Ukraine, and another group is based in Latin America and Canada. A third group, whose members are located at institutions around the world, focuses on parasites and infectious diseases that cause substantial suffering in the developing world. International scholar Pascale Cossart of the Pasteur Institute of Paris, for one, has mapped the genes of Listeria to help her understand what turns a harmless soil dweller into a dangerous human pathogen.
In the United States, several HHMI investigators are working on problems with implications for global health. Matthew K. Waldor, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, is studying the evolution and biology of bacteria that cause diseases such as cholera. And at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, Daniel E. Goldberg is searching for drugs that could kill the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium. Others are probing the mysteries of rotavirus, hookworm, HIV, and other afflictions.
HHMI’s global commitment extends to the classroom as well. Each year, about 30 students from schools that receive science education grants from HHMI work abroad with international scholars. Scott Strobel, an HHMI professor from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, takes a class of students to a South or Central American rainforest each year to search for chemicals that might be used in antibiotics or other treatments. And this year, HHMI Professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum’s engineering students at Rice University in Houston, Texas, designed a low-cost incubator that can be built and used in the developing world.