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Zimbabwe minister tours research facilities

Zimbabwe visit

Robin DiFrancesco (left) of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences conducts a tour of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences for Heneri Dzinotyiweyi (center) and Charles Maponga. Photo: NANCY J. PARISI

By SARA R. SALDI

Published June 19, 2014

The Hon. Professor Heneri Dzinotyiweyi, Zimbabwe minister of science and technology development, visited Buffalo on Feb. 19 to tour two UB research facilities and discuss the vision and implementation strategy for the Zimbabwe International Nanotechnology Center (ZINC) with officials from UB, its primary academic partner.

Dzinotyiweyi visited the Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics (ILPB) on the North Campus, and then toured UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences on the Downtown Campus.

His visit was coordinated by Paras Prasad, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Electrical Engineering; Samuel P. Capen Chair of Chemistry; and executive director of the ILPB, and Gene D. Morse, professor of pharmacy practice and associate director of the Center of Excellence and director of the Translational Pharmacy Research Core.

“Professor Dzinotyiweyi’s visits to the ILPB, as well as the center, provided an opportunity for faculty leaders, regional scientists and public officials to discuss the recently announced international collaboration of UB and ZINC,” says Morse.

In 2009, Morse received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fogarty International Center AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP) Award. The program consists of a partnership with the University of Zimbabwe and establishes an international HIV Clinical Pharmacology Fellowship program. This award has energized the faculty and students at the University of Zimbabwe and has become a centerpiece for capacity building in the region.

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.

ZINC emerged from the UB-UZ AITRP collaboration with the ILPB and Center of Excellence, and was launched as a national nanotechnology research program with the University of Zimbabwe and Chinhoyi University of Technology to address the need for new pharmacological approaches to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

UB’s role in the ZINC partnership will be to provide training to young scientists and students in Zimbabwe in multiple areas within nanotechnology.

Nanoparticles have become important to the equation of new HIV/AIDS drug development because they can provide effective treatment options with shortened duration of therapy, reduced systemic side effects and limited development of drug resistance. 

“In other words,” Morse explains, “the development of nanoparticle formulations will target TB medications to be preferentially delivered to lung tissue (where the infection is), while reducing systemic exposure that is associated with drug toxicity.”

 The next steps in the UB-ZINC partnership will include identifying research areas of common interest to Zimbabwe and prioritizing them according to the country’s needs.

“In order to assess those needs, we are having a public symposium in Harare on March 18 and 19 that will include representatives from government, academia and the community,” says Morse.

He adds that among the challenges UB researchers face in working with any group like ZINC, which is on the other side of the globe, is establishing a good collaborative environment and funding the initiative.

To address this, Morse says multiple meetings are being scheduled in Buffalo and Harare to allow participants from all institutions to meet. For funding, Morse notes that government and privately sourced funding initiatives are being organized.

“ZINC represents a significant advance in UB’s involvement with Zimbabwe research training and capacity building, especially with the addition of Dr. Prasad and Dr. Cartwright’s expertise,” Morse says.

“Also, having ZINC collaborate with UB’s ILPB and Center of Excellence creates a synergistic initiative that will have an impact on Western New York research and development, as well as economic development locally and globally."

READER COMMENT

This is very encouraging indeed! The Commercialization Department of the Ministry of Science and Technology of Zimbabwe is looking forward to very interesting times ahead. Entry into the national market of affordable drugs, water purification and energy technologies are all we are waiting for.

Rungano Karimanzira