Despite advances in modern medicine, illness, disfigurement and death that can result from parasitic infection still threaten the majority of the global population. The best prospects for identifying new targets for drugs, vaccines and diagnostics, and for understanding the basis of drug resistance, antigenic diversity, infectivity and pathology, lie in deciphering and understanding the information in parasite genomes.
International parasite genome networks have been hugely successful. They have resulted in an exponential increase in genome data for a variety of protozoan and helminth parasites - organisms that are under-researched.
All data are stored in databases, accessible via the Internet (see 'genomes on the web'). This information provides the building blocks for functional and structural analyses, which can be performed by researchers all over the world.
"The Schistosoma, Brugia malayi, Trypanosoma brucei, T. cruzi and Leishmania initiatives fall within the UNDP/ World Bank / WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. TDR resources are extremely limited and its funding is largely 'pump-priming' to facilitate development of resources, strategies and collaborations to support applications to national or international agencies for larger-scale projects. This 'pump-priming' is beginning to bear fruit, with the Leishmania and T. brucei genome initiatives recently attracting multi-million dollar support" (1)
TDR is now focusing on providing capacity to use the parasite genome data and on supporting developments in applied genomics and bioinformatics.
Balter, M. (1999) Gene sequencers target malaria mosquito. Science, 285 (5427): 508-9
WHAT WAS TDR ROLE?
TDR has played an important role in the generation of knowledge about the parasite genomes for African trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, and lymphatic filariasis. TDR:
- Supported the establishment of five international genome networks
- Opened the door for scientists from disease endemic countries (DECs) to participate and collaborate in genome and post-genome projects
- Trained DEC scientists to acquire the expertise necessary to exploit advances in biotechnology and applied genomics
- Fostered partnerships with agencies and institutions to enable access of information in public databases
- Facilitated a forum for discussion of progress.