News from TDR Director, John Reeder

TDR news item
26 June 2014

I’m with great company at this year’s JCB session, with former TDR directors Ade Lucas and Tore Godal, and our new chair Hannah Akuffo.

We have just completed a very successful Joint Coordinating Board meeting. The JCB meets annually to review our performance over the past year and this has been a particularly rewarding meeting for us. We have moved beyond the transition from financial difficulties, and are clearly back in strong financial and programmatic shape. The board members enthusiastically agreed and were pleased to see such strong progress.

Dr Sue Kinn has been a rock-solid chair of JCB during the recent challenging times, really supporting us through these challenges, so it was sad to say good-bye to her as she ends her tenure. But we are fortunate to have another strong chair coming in.

Professor Hannah Akuffo of Sweden is acting Head of the Research Cooperation Unit of the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). She has been engaged in advisory roles with TDR over the past 20 years, most recently as a member of TDR’s Scientific and Advisory Committee from 2006-2011, and we’re looking forward to another fruitful relationship.

It was also great to see two former TDR directors – Adetokunbo Lucas who served from 1976-1986, and Tore Godal who led after him until 1998. We asked them to help us celebrate the 40th anniversary of TDR, and to share with us what they had learned during their time here. Dr Lucas provided us with his written comments, which can be found in the right hand links.

Later that day, we had a reception with board members, staff and former staff. It was a truly festive occasion, with old acquaintances renewed, and I really enjoyed meeting so many and hearing more stories about the past. The warmth and excitement of the event reminds me once again that TDR is truly a global family.

"The warmth and excitement of our 40th anniversary reception reminds me once again that TDR is truly a global family."

John Reeder, TDR Director

As you know, each month we profile one of our alumni as part of our anniversary activities. This month’s profile really caught my attention. Marian Warsame’s story shows the power of early support to promising young scientists, and how important it is to reach out to the poorest and least served countries.

New publications, new research, and open access

The anniversary activities serve to highlight our past achievements, but TDR is also working just as hard on current activities. This month’s publication of The guidance framework for testing genetically modified mosquitoes is the result of a long collaboration that is already being used in countries.

The ESSENCE for health research group has also published a new document on principles for strengthening research capacity, and I am pleased to be starting a new open access policy at TDR, all of which are detailed further in the news items in the links to the right.

Vectors, environment and society research

Yeya Touré, the unit leader of the research on vectors, environment and society, retires at the end of June after 13 years at TDR. During his time here, he supported research that identified a number of improved methods for controlling the vectors that transmit diseases like malaria, dengue, Chagas disease, and human African trypanosomiasis, which are now in use and improving the lives of many people.

Under his leadership and in coordination with Johannes Sommerfeld, a major body of work in Latin America identifying community-based approaches to reduce the dengue and Chagas disease vectors has been developed.

This year – the year of the World Health Report on vectors – we are profiling 5 of these countries and the impact of this approach. We have a story and a video about the city of Girardot, Colombia, where a new social enterprise has started to produce window curtains that keep out the mosquitos that carry the dengue virus. The co-investigator of this research, Dr Juliana Quintero, elegantly presented the work at our Joint Coordinating Board session.

Dr Florence Fouque has been appointed to succeed Yeya. She is a French national with a broad range of management, research and teaching experience in vector-borne diseases, most recently as head of the Laboratory of Medical Entomology at the Pasteur Institute in Les Abymes, Guadeloupe. She will start in mid-September, and we’re looking forward to her contributions in this growing area of focus at TDR.

Grants

This year’s impact grant call attracted 437 applications from 74 countries across the world. This is the second time we put out this call, and each time we have had an outpouring of interest. We know how valuable these grants are, and will continuing offering this type of support.

We’ve also designed a new grant to help improve the careers of women research scientists. During our 40th anniversary, we wanted to place attention on some key areas of growth, and this includes supporting gender equity. We’ve invited letters of interest from women scientists and research managers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs ) to develop their ideas on how to improve career development for women research scientists working in the area of infectious diseases of poverty.

We’re also collaborating on a pilot to track the careers of grantees. We want to know the kind of impact that TDR training or research support has on shaping careers, and we’re partnering with a survey being coordinated by the European Science Foundation (ESF) in Strasbourg, France.

So as you can see, there is plenty of work underway and a sense of excitement in implementing the new 2014/15 workplan. We’re happy to be back on track, and we're looking forward to continuing the good news as progress continues.

For more information, please contact

Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289
E-mail:guthj@who.int

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