News from TDR Director, John Reeder

TDR news item
1 May 2017

WHO/TDR/Yodi Mahendradhata

This is a busy time of the year for us at TDR, and as a result, this newsletter is packed with activities in many areas. I was recently in Jogjakarta and had the opportunity to talk first-hand to TDR sponsored postgraduate students enjoying their studies at Gadja Mada University. These students are part of the first wave of students going through TDR’s new regional approach to research capacity strengthening – there are 7 sponsored universities across the globe – and I was impressed with what I heard and saw.

I also had the opportunity to present the work of TDR at the Australian Society of Infectious Diseases meeting and to meet colleagues at the Kirby Institute in Sydney. There are many people engaged in the important work of building research capacity and results, and it’s so valuable to have these kinds of dialogues to share experiences and learn from each other.

Zika research

We are working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to support research into the alarming outbreak of Zika virus disease and its consequences on pregnant women and their babies. We have selected 2 scientific teams to review the current knowledge on Zika mosquito vectors. This information is essential to help determine the most valuable research and training that will limit the impact of the disease and its complications, and to help develop strategies and policies. Both teams are based in countries affected by Zika.

Increasing malaria data quality and access

TDR has been working on a number of fronts to open access to both research publications and data. The most recent achievement has been convening an independent Data Access Committee to support the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) data contributors in making decisions on access to malaria datasets. Contributors will soon be able to decide if they want to delegate decisions about data access to the committee, essentially providing their data to those who can use it for other research. This is an important milestone, and will provide valuable lessons for the sharing of data in many other research efforts.

TDR clinical research and development fellow Clifford Banda is working to improve the quality of data from malaria clinical trials in low resource settings. Based at the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) in Oxford, he wants to hear from researchers based in low- and middle-income countries about the tools and resources they have.

Social innovation for health

Our support to social innovation for health is gathering more attention and interest. The World Health Organization Bulletin has profiled 3 of the 23 case studies from the TDR-spearheaded Social Innovation in Health Initiative (SIHI). The journal news item explains the work to incentivize health-care delivery to overcome barriers to health care in low-income countries. Every month, we profile on our website one of these case studies, and this month it’s the Drug Shop project in Uganda, which provides care to young children for malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia. Finally, a new SIHI report outlines recommendations from funders on how to better support and promote research in community-based social innovation.

Increasing research capacity

We were pleased to read the article in PLOS NTD on the challenges and progress building research capacity in low- and middle-income countries, and to see how many of TDR’s programmes and grantees were positively reviewed. One important support to building this capacity was the new guidelines recently published by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. They now call for operational research to improve health information systems for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria control in countries. The policy aligns with recommendations from a TDR-led study and consultation.

TDR is making significant progress in supporting researchers in disease endemic countries to both conduct research and get the results published. Increasing the number of women on committees and research teams was also noted at the annual independent review of TDR’s technical work.

One woman who has been a key collaborator with TDR over many years, particularly in gender and access issues, is Lenore Manderson, this month’s TDR Global member who we have profiled. Lenore has been a member of our Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee and other scientific committees. Her work in medical anthropology has helped to find important answers to problems of health and disease inequalities.

Innovative training

The 2015 Ebola virus outbreak in western Africa exposed a major gap in research capacity that TDR is working to fill with partners. A new training curriculum ̶ Clinical Research During Outbreaks (CREDO) – is being developed to strengthen capacity of research teams in low- and middle-income countries to conduct clinical research on emerging and epidemic-prone infectious diseases, and generate the evidence needed by clinicians and public health authorities.

“TDR is making significant progress in supporting researchers in disease endemic countries to both conduct research and get the results published.”

John Reeder, TDR Director

In the eastern Mediterranean region, the smart phone application WhatsApp is improving diagnosis and treatment of HIV and tuberculosis. This comes out of implementation research training supported by TDR.

Increasing capacity to access new health technologies

TDR is one of the partners in the Access and Delivery Partnership (ADP), which is funded by the government of Japan and managed by one of our co-sponsors, UNDP. Our role involves increasing capacity in 3 countries to take on new health technologies for tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases. In Indonesia, the support we have provided to research priority setting has resulted in the launch of a national implementation research strategy to address significant bottlenecks in diagnosis and treatment of the diseases. In Ghana and Tanzania, we’re supporting training for implementation research and strengthening drug safety systems.

First ever World Report on Health Policy and Systems Research

The World Report on Health Policy and Systems Research was launched recently by the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research. The report provides practical recommendations on how to reorient health research to more effectively to public health challenges on a national and global level. This is a very useful report that comes at an important time. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals call for more integrated approaches, and using a systems perspective is critical. We congratulate the Alliance, and hope that many of our scientists find this useful.

Staffing change

After 16 years at TDR, scientist and research manager Johannes Sommerfeld has moved to what he calls “another gem in the WHO system,” the WHO Kobe Centre for Health Development in Japan. We were sad to see him go, but are also looking forward to what he does in his new position. An interview with Johannes this month highlights important issues he has worked on while at TDR, and how he is bringing his experience to the issues of healthy ageing, urban health and disaster response.


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

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