HIV/AIDS Funding to UB Will Help Zimbabwe Dramatically Increase Research and Treatment Capacity

Release Date: October 20, 2009

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The HIV clinical pharmacology research program led by UB's Gene Morse has received new funding to train health care workers and researchers from Zimbabwe.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- New funding for an innovative University at Buffalo program that trains Zimbabwe's clinician scientists and translational pharmacologists will bring additional health care professionals and researchers to Buffalo to be trained to fight the war on AIDS in Zimbabwe.

UB's HIV Clinical Pharmacology Research Program in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and its program with the University of Zimbabwe has received a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center grant; last month the program was awarded a supplement as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

"This is a major advance," says Gene D. Morse, PharmD, associate director, translational pharmacology core, in UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and professor in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

He noted that this was the first time the UB-UZ program, which began in 2002, has received a Fogarty grant, NIH's program for funding international research.

"The ARRA funds will help introduce to Zimbabwe electronic information technology in conducting HIV/AIDS clinical research," he said.

The goals are to continue to train scientists in the developing world in HIV/AIDS clinical pharmacology by bringing them to Buffalo to work toward establishing similar training centers in the developing world with an emphasis on treatment and research.

Funding for the UB program follows encouraging reports that many more AIDS patients throughout the developing world, including in Africa, are now being treated with antiretroviral medicines.

Since 2002, the UB program has trained four postgraduate clinical pharmacology scientists at the University of Zimbabwe through an exchange program run by the two institutions and funded through NIH grants from the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases' AIDS Clinical Trials Group, the National Institute for Drug Abuse and the University of California, Berkeley. The collaboration was established by Morse and Chiedza Maponga, PharmD, of the Department of Pharmacy at UZ and a visiting faculty member in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, where he earned his doctorate.

In the past, the UB program has focused on applying the best HIV/AIDS pharmacotherapy to conditions in the developing world by training clinical pharmacologists for several months at a time in UB's HIV Clinical Pharmacology laboratories in the School of Pharmacy and UB's Center of Excellence.

"Now, our challenge is to use this funding to extend the UB training to include technology transfer, laboratory facility growth and capacity building in Zimbabwe," says Morse, "The goal is to develop and promote a new laboratory at the University of Zimbabwe as a center for training clinical pharmacologists in other southern African countries, so that they can receive training in HIV pharmacotherapy in their home region."

Currently, two trainees from Zimbabwe and one from Nigeria are working in UB's HIV/AIDS Clinical Pharmacology laboratory; two more trainees are coming to UB from Zimbabwe in the spring.

Morse says that in addition to increasing patient access to antiretrovirals, the UB-UZ program now is focused on developing a critical HIV/AIDS research capacity in Zimbabwe. That goal is reinforced by the fact that the UZ pharmacy curriculum has recently been upgraded from department status to school status, requiring a 50 percent increase in faculty members and a need for additional research capacity.

"We are trying to do two things: to help provide better access to medications to the country in the short-term; and in the long term, to help Zimbabwe develop a comprehensive research plan that addresses the multiple issues complicating treatment and research there, including the large numbers of patients on these medications, maternal-fetal transmission, resistance, dietary factors, use of traditional and herbal medicines and co-infection with hepatitis B, tuberculosis and malaria," says Morse.

He says the UB laboratory is an ideal model for developing a research facility in Zimbabwe, because it is one of the few places in the U.S. that combines research, education, clinical practice, training in medication adherence, applied clinical pharmacology and state-of-the-art laboratory analysis.

Morse, who directs an NIH global HIV Clinical Pharmacology Quality Assurance Program and who has chaired the Adult AIDS Clinical Trials Group Pharmacology Committee, adds that he believes an international orientation is becoming essential to the future success of all aspects of HIV pharmacology research.

"UB's Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences are well positioned to take a leadership role in shaping that international perspective -- through this collaboration with the University of Zimbabwe and other resource-limited countries -- in HIV clinical pharmacology, applied pharmacotherapeutics and translational research," he says.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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