BUFFALO, N.Y. -- What does it take to launch two major
international HIV/AIDS research initiatives involving the
University at Buffalo and the University of Zimbabwe?
It requires attention to issues as diverse as working with
government officials, choosing the right scientists, establishing
ethics in research, training for quality control and good
laboratory practices, transferring paper patient records into
electronic formats and understanding how different cultures respond
to serious illness and treatment.
And it requires face-to-face information exchange and
A UB-led research team recently traveled to Zimbabwe to
participate in a week-long program of workshops that included the
formal launch of two Zimbabwe national programs: the Zimbabwe
International Nanotechnology Center (ZINC) and the Zimbabwe
Evidence-To-Action (ETA), an implementation project to eradicate
HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe.
With 14 percent of Zimbabwe's population living with HIV/AIDS
and tuberculosis as a co-infection, the need for new drugs and new
formulations of available treatments is crucial.
UB’s role in the ZINC partnership is to provide training
to young scientists and students in Zimbabwe in multiple areas
within nanotechnology. The trip to Zimbabwe included identifying
research areas of common interest to Zimbabwe and prioritizing them
according to the country’s needs.
UB has built a partnership with Zimbabwe over seven years
through an NIH Fogarty International Center program.
Paras Prasad, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the
Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Electrical
Engineering; Samuel P. Capen Chair of Chemistry and executive
director of UB’s Institute for Lasers, Photonics and
Biophotonics (ILPB), and Gene Morse, PharmD, professor and
associate director of the UB Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics
and Life Sciences head the UB-ZINC collaboration.
“There was an incredible feeling of optimism and high
energy toward both initiatives,” said Morse.
The week began with the second Zimbabwe National Nanotechnology
Consultative Meeting on March 18 - 19.
Prasad, who will direct the international nanotechnology
contributions for ZINC, gave the keynote address.
Morse, who will direct the international nanomedicine component
of ZINC, presented the role that UB and the CoE will play in ZINC.
Other participating UB faculty included Stanley Schwartz, MD, SUNY
Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Peter Horvath, PhD,
associate professor of exercise physiology and nutrition.
Background and details of ZINC were provided during
presentations from the minister for science and technology
development (MSTD), the Honorable Professor Heneri Dzinotyiweyi, UB
alumnus, Chiedza Maponga, PharmD, technical director for
nanotechnology (MSTD) and director of the UZ School of Pharmacy,
and Josephat Zimba, Technical Consultant to the MSTD on
nanotechnology. Additional presentations from Professor Levi
Nyagura, UZ Vice Chancellor, and Professor David Simbi, CUT Vice
Chancellor, described the leadership roles for their
The week continued with a two-day workshop on March 20 - 21 for
the ETA Project.
Hosted by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, the first
compelling data that provide the rationale for preventing HIV
transmission through pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and treatment
as prevention (TaSP)
national statistics for prevention of mother-to-child transmission
and pediatric HIV infection
Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052 and the dramatic results
obtained in discordant couples when the HIV-infected partner was
treated early after infection leading to a reduced transmission
need for a strategy to provide treatment to key populations with
HIV infection including high risk groups such as prisoners, men who
have sex with men, commercial sex workers and pregnant women.
At a concurrent workshop, Robin DiFrancesco, manager of the UB
Clinical Pharmacology Quality Assurance Program (CPQA) and an AIDS
International Training and Research Program (AITRP) mentor,
provided lectures focused on building laboratory skills and
bioanalytical method development.
In a second afternoon workshop, Kathleen Tooley, senior research
support specialist in the UB Translational Pharmacology Research
Core, and Education and Operations Administrator for CPQA and
AITRP, and an AITRP mentor, moderated a group at the UZ College of
Health Sciences to address challenges in research ethics and
research administration for faculty and students who will conduct
research within ETA.
Morse chaired the second day of the workshop and provided a
presentation on the progress of the UB-UZ AITRP. Highlights
included a review of the Training Advisory Group and the recently
established Scientific Advisory Board, new research programs,
nutritional and traditional medicine pharmacology, clinical
pharmacology and healthcare informatics.
The second half of the morning program was chaired by Morse and
focused on Bioinformatics and Health Information Technology (HIT)
required for the ETA infrastructure in collaboration with the
Zimbabwean health care system.
In the HIV Nutrition Pharmacology working group, Horvath and
faculty and graduate students from the Departments of Pediatrics
and Biochemistry discussed nutritional considerations for the ETA
Horvath also provided a seminar on March 25 for the UZ
Departments of Pediatrics and Biochemistry titled
“Nutritional Aspects of HIV Infection and
Morse was pleased with the results achieved during the
“I was very proud that a country that has faced so many
challenges to advancing the health of the nation and plan for
scientific and economic growth was linked to the UB-UZ AITRP and
the efforts that have been put forward over the last seven
Morse said that the UB team’s visit contributed to two
Zimbabwean national initiatives and conducted numerous sessions,
workshops and small group meetings.
“The outcome created a new level of collaboration,
reaching beyond university campuses to the highest levels of
government ministries as well as community programs. This extensive
spectrum of research and education programs has been built on the
strong AITRP link between UZ and UB,” he said.
The events were jointly sponsored by the Zimbabwe Ministry of
Health and Child Welfare; the University at Buffalo - University of
Zimbabwe (UZ) AIDS International Training and Research Program
(AITRP) and the UZ - UB International Pharmacotherapy Education and
Research Initiative (IPERI).