The N8 Parasitology Network has been formed to take advantage of the opportunities across the N8 partnership of universities. Led by Durham University and consisting of more than 40 academics and dozens of post-doctoral and PhD students, the Network is addressing many key issues including the development of vaccines, diagnostic tools and drugs.
Parasitological research is a key strength of the N8 universities. This discipline is critically important, as recent estimates suggest that the majority of the world’s human population is harbouring one or more species of parasite at any one time – the nematode Ascaris lumbricoides alone is estimated to infect approximately 1000 million individuals and 15 million people are estimated to die from infectious disease each year.
The overarching aim of N8 Parasitology Network is to combine strengths across the N8 universities in order to improve the prospects for high-quality, multi-disciplinary research, Bringing together multiple disciplines across the range of parasites affecting both human and animal populations will create new insights and increased prospects for improvements in global health.
Other important roles of the network will be to promote parasitology as a research and teaching subject, and to promote the outputs of N8 researchers to within and outside the academic community. The power of N8 will be used to contribute to UK and international research and policy agendas.
Dr. Mark Booth, Acting Deputy Director of the Wolfson Research Institute, Durham University is leading the Network. He comments:
“The N8 Parasitology Network is a unique resource. We’ve got expertise in genetics, physiology, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, immunology, ecology, epidemiology, anthropology and sociology.
We’ve got academics interested in many different parasitic infections of both humans and animals. We have on-going applied and basic research in vaccine development, drug development, new diagnostics, control strategies and climate change.
The N8 Parasitology Network will not only facilitate sharing of expertise across different parasite species and applications but enable cutting-edge multidisciplinary teams to tackle important issues simultaneously. No parasite is safe!”
Major research currently funded within the N8 universities include vaccine development, as there are still no vaccines available for any parasitic disease of humans; drug development, as there is a limited portfolio of drugs available across the entire spectrum of infections, as well as the relationship between control policy and implementation. Many other areas of research are covered within the N8 including the impact of parasites on childhood vaccination and the impact of climate change on exposure to parasites.
One of the first activities the Network is carrying out is mapping the research assets of the Parasitology community in the N8 universities and identify potential collaborations, which is due to be completed by the end of 2011.
A series of workshops will take place in 2012, the first set to coincide with the British Society for Parasitology meeting in April 2012. The Network will also explore the commercial opportunities stemming from the activities of N8 Parasitology researchers. This will involve conversations with industrial partners, from SMEs to multi-national corporations. The opportunities for aligning research outputs with the International Development agenda will also be explored.
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