The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC) have committed £9 million for community building Networks in Vector Borne Disease (VBD) Research to support a number of interdisciplinary Networks addressing challenges relating to VBD of plants, animals and humans.
This forms part of BBSRC’s and MRC’s activities under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and address VBD challenges primarily relevant to the health or prosperity of Countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) DAC List. The Networks supported through this call will contribute to the UK Government’s commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA).
The Networks will focus on VBD challenges of relevance to countries on the OECD DAC list, encourage interdisciplinary working and strengthen research capacity, capabilities and methodologies particularly focused on the vectors of disease. The aims are also to provide resources to support pump-priming funding for a range of innovative projects identified by the Networks ultimately leading to more competitive, collaborative, cross-disciplinary and integrative research proposals, and to support collaboration between researchers in the UK and LMICs and engagement with end-users, stakeholders and policy makers.
The 4 BBSRC VBD Networks are:
- ANTI-VeC: Application of Novel Transgenic technology & Inherited symbionts to Vector Control
- BOVA: Building Out Vector-borne diseases in sub-Saharan Africa
- CONNECTED: COmmunity Network for africaN vECTor borne plant viruses
- The Gnatwork: building capacity for research on neglected tropical vectors
ANTI-VeC: Application of Novel Transgenic technology & Inherited symbionts to Vector Control
Twitter: @ AntiVec
Professor Steven Sinkins, University of Glasgow and Professor Andrea Crisanti from Imperial College London.
A major goal for the scientific community working on vector borne diseases is to develop novel strategies and tools for effective vector control. The network will address the challenge of better integrating these efforts, with a specific focus on two approaches widely considered to be the most promising novel strategies: genetic modification and the use of heritable endosymbionts. Both approaches require the rearing and release of insect disease vectors with the aim of suppressing their populations or blocking the transmission of pathogens. They are highly targeted, species specific strategies, which (depending on the specific form employed) may only require one short intervention phase rather than repeated applications, thus providing major advantages over insecticides in terms of environmental impact and cost effectiveness.
The Network will draw together individuals from a broad range of scientific disciplines engaged in developing and deploying these approaches to foster knowledge exchange, methodological and technological sharing, and stimulate innovative collaborative research projects that will lay the foundation for new approaches or more effective implementation
BOVA: Building Out Vector-borne diseases in sub-Saharan Africa
Professor Steve Lindsay, Durham University and Professor Michael Davies from University College London.
Poor housing and environmental conditions undermine the health of citizens in sub-Saharan Africa with regard to vector-borne diseases. Vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue are typically controlled through the application of insecticides, such as insecticide-treated bednets. However, these tools are insufficient to control these diseases and the need for non-chemical and inter-sectoral approaches is widely acknowledged.
The BOVA Network aims to advocate for the role of the built environment in vector-borne disease transmission and control and stimulate research in this area. We will do this by bringing together diverse stakeholders such as epidemiologists, entomologists, architects, town planners, policy makers and non-governmental organisations.
The ultimate goal of this Network is to make communities in sub-Saharan Africa more resilient to the threat from insect-transmitted diseases; chiefly malaria, a rural disease, and diseases carried by Aedes species mosquitoes, like Zika and dengue, which are primarily urban diseases.
CONNECTED: Community Network for africaN vECTor borne plant viruses
Professor Gary Foster, University of Bristol, and Professor Neil Boonham from Newcastle University.
CONNECTED aims to build a sustainable network of international scientists and researchers to address the challenges of vector-borne plant viruses in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region of the world and plant VBDs are one of the most significant constraints for production of staple and cash crops, for example cassava (cassava brown streak and mosaic diseases), sweet potato (sweet potato virus disease), maize (maize lethal necrosis) and yam (badnaviruses and yam mosaic virus diseases). Limiting production causes poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition, which in turn prevents economic and social development. Emergence of new virus diseases in combination with climate change, resource limitations and a growing population will impact the region sooner and more significantly than other parts of the world and is of global significance.
The network seeks to directly improve the food security and livelihoods of people in Sub-Saharan Africa by pump priming a number of diverse but targeted innovative research activities with the ultimate aim of growing the ones with greatest regional impact into larger activities.
The Gnatwork: building capacity for research on neglected tropical vectors
Dr Simon Carpenter, The Pirbright Institute, and Professor Mary Cameron from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The Gnatwork brings together researchers from around the world to address technical issues that arise when working on small biting flies. Biting midges, sandflies and blackflies transmit internationally important pathogens of humans, livestock and companion animals. While highly divergent in lifecycle, ecology and the pathogens they transmit, these vector groups share the similarity of extremely small adult body size, with wing lengths of <2mm in most species.
This seemingly minor trait imposes a significant constraint on almost every aspect of research within these groups. When combined with fluctuations in funding that follows disease impact, this creates a significant challenge in retaining a critical mass of researchers on each group, particularly in countries where medical and veterinary priorities change rapidly.
By creating a community of scientists around the world where research is relevant to development, we can make significant progress in translating techniques across all three vector groups, develop new ones and build a more resilient research base for these neglected vector groups.
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