IHV researchers awarded $ 6.5 million to create African big data hub designed to address public health and pandemic preparedness

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Newswise – Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Institute of Human Virology (IHV), a Global Virus Network (GVN) center of excellence, received $ 6.5 million from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to streamline big data collection in Nigeria and South Africa to meet the public health needs of COVID-19 and HIV pandemics.

The U54 scholarship, named INFORM Africa, was awarded in September 2021. As one of the seven research poles in Africa, INFORM Africa will serve as the NIH (DS-I Africa) Data and Innovation Research Center to support data science and innovation training programs in Africa, promote research on the ethical, legal and social implications at the heart of health research and innovation in Africa, and establish an open data science platform and coordination center. The funds also establish a data management and analysis core to collect and evaluate existing and new data gathered for the research hub. The researchers of the INFORM Africa The grant will work with the public and private sectors led by the Nigerian Institute of Human Virology (IHVN), to collect information to better understand the many variables impacting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Using large datasets on HIV and SARS-CoV-2 from two of Africa’s largest and most affected countries, INFORM Africa will be able to provide new and unique insights into the relationships regarding the mobility of the two viruses, as well as their impact on each other, so that governments across Africa can better respond to these current epidemics and future threats, ”said the grant co-recipient. Alash’le Abimiku, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Executive Director of the International Research Center of Excellence, IHVN. “We look forward to meeting the long-standing challenge in Africa of not having the capacity to secure, store and analyze large, high-quality data sets. “

INFORM Africa will focus on three research projects. A project will study the impact of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 by studying human movements. The second project will focus on where the virus is distributed and how it can mutate to form new strains that can change its behavior. The final project will examine the interplay between factors such as location, spread and population demographics, as to its effect on twin pandemics (SARS-CoV-2 and HIV).

“Faced with a new, highly infectious agent and poor health infrastructure, IHV and UMSOM have hired colleagues from the Maryland Transportation Institute and the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory at the University of Maryland at College Park, headed by Dr. Xiong, to facilitate the proposed data. research-oriented research, ”said the other grant co-recipient Man Charurat, PhD, MHS, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Prevention, Research and Global Director of Ciheb, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “This partnership will ensure optimal management of data flows and the development of appropriate tools and workflows for innovative data analysis that will transform biomedical and behavioral research and improve health across Africa. “

Dr Abimiku and Dr Charurat will work alongside Kristen Stafford, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health and Deputy Director of Ciheb, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine; Mohammad Sajadi, MD, professor of medicine, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine; Patrick Dakum, MBBS, MPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine; Meagan Fitzpatrick, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Fellow of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine; investigators from the Maryland Transportation Institute; CAPRISA and the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa; and Akros in Zambia.

“Thanks to this team’s extensive experience in building the HIV care infrastructure in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, they are poised to take a new step in the development of an infectious disease surveillance network. more integrated, ”said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland Baltimore, and Distinguished Professor and Dean John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Rather than responding reactively, the team will be able to see trends as they emerge, allowing public health officials to intervene earlier and keep citizens safe. “

Robert C. Gallo, MD, Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Co-Founder and Director, Institute of Human Virology (IHV), University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Co-Founder and International Scientific Director of GVN, said: “Drs. Abimiku and Charurat have been an integral part of the Institute’s seventeen years of work in countries funded by the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), most notably and significantly in Nigeria. I am delighted to see this team build on their vast experience and develop their international portfolio with NIH to implement INFORM Africa and identify current public health needs and prepare for future epidemics. “

The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration for innovative, high-impact research, such as Human Heredity and African-Led Health in Africa (H3Africa). NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, created the DS-I Africa initiative through the Common Fund to support the vision to harness data science in Africa for rapid progress to improve health .

About the Institute of Human Virology

Formed in 1996 as a partnership between the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, the University of Maryland System and the University of Maryland Medical System, the IHV is an institute of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Maryland and is home to some of the most recognized and globally recognized experts in all of virology. The IHV combines the disciplines of basic research, epidemiology and clinical research in a concerted effort to accelerate the discovery of diagnoses and treatments for a wide variety of chronic and fatal viral and immune disorders, including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. For more information, visit www.ihv.org and follow us on Twitter @IHVmaryland.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was established in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today to be one of the world’s fastest growing leading biomedical research companies – with 46 departments, centers, institutes and academic programs, and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists. and health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and two-time winner of the Albert E. Lasker Prize in Medical Research. With an operating budget of over $ 1.2 billion, the Faculty of Medicine works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinical care. to nearly 2 million patients each year. The medical school has nearly $ 600 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments ranking highly among all medical schools in the country for research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 students, interns, residents. and fellows. The Combined School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medicine have an annual budget of more than $ 6 billion and an economic impact of almost $ 20 billion on the state and the local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks 8th among public medical schools in terms of research productivity (according to the Association of American Medical Colleges profile) is an innovator in translational medicine, with 606 active patents and 52 start-ups. In the last American News and World Report ranking of the best medical schools, published in 2021, the UM School of Medicine is ranked # 9 among 92 public medical schools in the United States and in the top 15 percent (# 27) of the 192 public and private medical schools in the United States. The School of Medicine works locally, nationally and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu


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