Silicon Valley to help in fight

09 May 2005

Top South African research institutions are to benefit from a new programme that will provide high-calibre international training in biomedical informatics to future African leaders in health research at UCT, the University of Western Cape and the National Institutes of Communicable Diseases.

Building on existing successes in working with Stanford University, researchers have developed a powerful international programme, securing an internationally-competitive grant from the Fogarty International Centre that provides support for graduate African scientists to pursue cutting-edge training in areas such as HIV informatics, TB drug discovery and bioinformatics. The programme promises to deliver a cadre of "future African scientific leaders" in biomedical informatics. Research includes HIV databasing, pharmacogenomics and new languages for describing medical discoveries.

R4.3-million in funding comes from the Fogarty International Centre and the National Human Genome Research Institute through the US National Institutes of Health over the next three years.

"We are delighted to partner our colleagues in Cape Town in training South African scientists in the use of information science to fight major threats to health," said Dr Russ Altman, the director of the Stanford Biomedical Informatics (BMI) programme which focuses on training in five areas: core informatics, computer science, probability and statistics, biology and physiology, and ethical/legal/social implications of technology. UCT recently established a node of a national network of bioinformatics research groups located at universities around South Africa. The National Bioinformatics Network (NBN) provides good opportunities for collaboration between nodes in computational biology in terms of both training and research and provides research bursaries at postgraduate and postdoctoral levels.

The UCT node of the network, which is due to move to a newly-developed facility at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IIDMM) on the health sciences campus, provides the link between UCT and the Stanford South Africa programme.

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