BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The six weeks that graduate student Tinashe
Mudzviti spends at the University at Buffalo this summer could help
more than 100,000 people with HIV receive life-saving treatments
back in his home country of Zimbabwe.
Mudzviti, a first-year master's student at the University of
Zimbabwe (UZ), is the first UZ graduate student to visit UB as part
of a collaborative program between the two universities to improve
the quality and distribution of treatments for HIV patients in
Now in its sixth year, the International Center for HIV/AIDS
Pharmacotherapy Research and Training (ICHAPRT) was founded by
Chiedza Maponga, a 1988 UB graduate and the first clinical
pharmacist in his native Zimbabwe, and his UB mentor, Gene D.
Morse, associate dean for clinical and translational research in
the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
ICHAPRT has been an important component in recent years in
turning the destructive tide of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, where the
incidence rate of HIV has dropped to 18 percent from 25 percent,
according to Maponga.
"Of all of the southern African countries, Zimbabwe is the only
one that is showing a downward trend," he said.
The Zimbabwean government has launched a campaign to distribute
free antiretroviral drugs to 120,000 people with HIV by the end of
2007. However, Maponga said there are more than 600,000 who are in
need of these life-saving medicines in his home country.
As part of his work at UB, 24-year-old Mudzviti has been
learning laboratory research protocols and technology, and has
discovered many similarities and a few differences, between
research in the two countries.
"There's more of an emphasis on issues of safety, on standard
operating procedures, in the United States. I think we will need to
learn put more emphasis on everything we do, to make everything
precise, to make everything accurate and keep everything tight," he
Mudzviti, whose trip to Western New York marks his first journey
outside of southern Africa, knows the responsibility that awaits
him upon his return to Zimbabwe.
"Coming here and seeing how things are done from this end means
that when I go back, I'll be in a better position to show people
the practicality of pharmacology theory, that these things can
really be done, that we can do them just as well."
Maponga remains committed to reaching the thousands of ailing
patients in his homeland and those in nearby nations. His mantra of
late is that he works to "build bridges" between Zimbabwe and
developed countries like the United States by adopting the methods
that have managed to ebb their AIDS epidemics, including drug
monitoring, distribution and adherence plans, pharmacological
research, education and training.
"Zimbabwe also is one of only three countries in southern Africa
that is producing and using its own drugs to fight HIV. The work is
progressing and the scientists there want to work to make it
different," he said.
The two universities rely heavily on technology transfer to
carry on their collaborative work, according to Maponga, who holds
academic appointments at both institutions.
"This means that on a given research project, a student in
Zimbabwe can be collecting samples while a student here at UB is
assigned to do the reading part of the project," Maponga said.
ICHAPRT early on established a pharmacology support laboratory
in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe and home of its university, in order
to work together on projects with the UB Pharmacotherapy Research
Center (PRC), where Morse serves as director and leads a team of
several scientists and lab staff members.
At the University of Zimbabwe -- home to the nation's only
medical school -- Maponga collaborates with the institution's lead
medical investigator for HIV research programs, and directs a
support staff that includes nurses and community workers from
ICHAPRT has attracted support for its mission to further HIV
research and prevention, most recently from two donors. The Gilead
Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the
health and well-being of underserved communities around the world,
donated $15,000 for student training. Waters Corporation, a global
laboratory equipment supplier, has donated an Alliance high
performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC) valued at $60,000 for use
in graduate student training.
The HPLC equipment, now housed in a lab at UB to be used by
visiting students like Mudvziti, eventually will be shipped to
Zimbabwe so UZ students can use it to monitor patient health and
determine the best treatment approach for individual patients.
Michael Yelle, the senior director of clinical operations at
Waters, said the company shares Maponga's vision of helping as many
people as possible through education and technology.
"Waters Corporation is committed to improving human health
through the use of our laboratory products and technologies for
research and patient healthcare. Our work in the clinical market
generally and therapeutic drug monitoring specifically has a direct
impact on patients' lives. This donation was inspired by our desire
to support an important program that strives to help those in need
of quality medical care," Yelle said.
Howard S. Jaffe, chairman and president of the Gilead
Foundation, said his institution is an "enthusiastic supporter and
advocate for the work of ICHAPRT.
"The challenge of responding to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic is
one that can only be addressed through partnership and the
sustained commitment of governments, academic institutions,
non-profit organizations and industry. We look forward to observing
the center's progress and impact in Zimbabwe and beyond," Jaffe
In addition, the National Institutes of Health Fogarty
International Center in collaboration with the University of
California Berkeley AIDS International Training and Research
Program (AITRP) paid for Mudzviti's travel to and from Zimbabwe
The UB/UZ program also uses its online HIV Pharmacotherapy
to encourage the global dissemination of ideas on HIV
pharmacotherapy, particularly as they pertain to developing
Morse notes that "with new training and expertise, the
University of Zimbabwe will be better positioned to obtain funding
from the World Health Organization to implement
pharmacology-related protocols and enroll patients in its own
clinical trials. This will, in turn, allow for important clinical
research to be conducted that examines the use of HIV medicine with
traditional medicines that are used commonly in developing
The program's top priority remains "to find opportunities to
offer technical support and technology transfer in the provision of
essential medicines for HIV and AIDS in resource poor settings,"
according to Maponga.
"Ideally those medicines should be of good quality and made
available to patients in a way that is affordable and sustainable,"
he said. "Patients need to be trained to ensure that they take
those medicines as recommended and be prepared to report any
unwanted or unexpected reactions that they might experience after
taking the medications."
Training students like Tinashe Mudzviti properly is the key to
the future of the program and the future of countries like
Zimbabwe, Maponga said, waving his hand toward the student.
"He is living proof that this is not a program that is
undertaken so that we can publish papers and finish a project. We
need the students to come here for the essential science and be
able to go back there to apply the science. When they finish their
degrees, we don't say they're finished. We must continue to groom
them until they are able to write grants on their own and
contribute to the scientific journals, until they can stand on
their own," Maponga said.
The UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will hold
a reception to recognize the accomplishments and supporters of
ICHAPRT from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, August 9. For
information, call Kelly Tooley at (716) 645-3635, ext. 263, or
email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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