Notre Dame Faculty Receive Funding for New Global Health Pilot Projects

The Eck Institute for Global Health (EIGH) has recently awarded funds to support four global health pilot research projects.  Each project will receive $40,000 over a two-year period to complete its research. The objective of the pilot project grant program is to assist EIGH faculty members to pursue innovative research ideas and develop data to support external grant proposals.

The awards went to:

Neil Lobo, PhD, who will collaborate with Hasanuddin University of Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, and Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology, Jakarta, Indonesia, to determine the entomological parameters required for study design and simulating the effect of a novel outdoor malaria intervention on malaria transmission in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Approximately 130 million people live at risk of Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax transmission in Indonesia. This research project will study the flight ecology, species-specific feeding habits, and species-specific breeding habitats of anophiline mosquitoes in an area with both multiple vectors and breeding sites.

Miguel Morales, PhD, will evaluate the role of MAPK signaling pathway in drug resistance of Leishmania, a poverty-related disease that affects the poorest of the poor and is associated with malnutrition, displacement, poor housing, illiteracy, gender discrimination, weakness of the immune system, and lack of resources. Chemotherapy is the only way to control and treat the disease due to the lack of a human safe vaccine. However, this strategy is seriously threatened by the rampant increase of resistance against standard clinical drugs. This research plans to unravel the contribution of the MAPK transduction pathway to avert resistance in Leishmania.

Zachary Schafer, PhD and Shaun Lee, PhD, will evaluate a novel immunotoxin for targeted cancer therapy. Conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatments lack tumor specificity, which result in toxicity to normal surrounding tissues and unwanted DNA damage of healthy cells. Targeted therapies via specialized compounds known as immunotoxins can increase safety as well as confer better toxic selectivity towards cancer cells. Global death rates from cancers number over seven million. People in developing countries have limited (sometimes no) access to standard surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and palliative care resources. This collaboration between Drs. Schafer and Lee represents a great example of combining the expertise of a cancer researcher with that of a microbiologist to develop innovative health solutions.

Zainulabeuddin Syed, PhD, will study the genetic and functional diversification of mosquito odorant receptors (ORs. Mosquitos are one of the most important groups of insects affecting human and animal health. They occupy diverse habitats, feed on a variety of animals and transmit life-threatening diseases. Olfaction plays a key role in a mosquito’s life and is mediated by a set of ORs. This project will provide insights into the fundamental aspects of ORs evolution and function, and potentially identify odorants that can be used as attractants in monitoring and managing field population by incorporating them into Odor Baited Traps.

The Eck Institute for Global Health is a university-wide enterprise that recognizes health as a fundamental human right and endeavors to promote research, training and service to advance health standards for all people, especially people in low and middle-income countries, who are disproportionately impacted by preventable diseases.