News from TDR Director, John Reeder

TDR news item
9 May 2014

As researchers, we are well aware that most new knowledge and its application takes many years, often decades, to come to fruition. And this knowledge rarely comes from just one person or organization. A good example of this is the recent publication of the Glossina morsitans genome sequence in Science.

Initiated by TDR, the Wellcome Trust and the World Health Organization in 2004, the work has involved nearly 150 scientists from all over the world. I am happy to say that half of these scientists came from African institutions, which was TDR’s objective throughout this process. In the end, we have new information that the scientific community can use to develop new tools for disease control, such as traps of the tsetse fly that transmits the disease. It’s this use and translation of this kind of scientific information into action that we’re so interested in supporting.

Strengthening research capacity where it’s needed

Another collaboration, this time with the ESSENCE on health research group of funders, that is hosted here, has resulted in new materials to continue the growth of well qualified researchers and institutions in low- and middle-income countries. A package of training materials on research costing, as well as new journal articles on the evaluation of capacity strengthening programmes, are now available. ESSENCE is working to simplify and streamline funding practices, an important effort that we’re very pleased to be supporting.

"It’s this use and translation of information into action that we’re so interested in supporting."

John Reeder, TDR Director

An external review of the TDR Career Development Fellowship has found a positive impact on a broad range of factors, with real future potential for continued growth and extension. Altogether, 95% of survey respondents think that their skills and competencies in good clinical or laboratory practices were “better” or “much better” at the end of the programme.

Make sure you read the profile of one of the latest fellows – Amadou Seck from Senegal – who is using his experience to establish a top quality data management structure in Dakar that will enable the national TB control programme to conduct its own studies and trials in line with international standards. The head of the TB programme says that he is already implementing important changes there.

This is a great example of one of the key recommendations from last year’s World Health Report on research for universal health coverage that countries should be both producers as well as users of research. At TDR, we are tying research development with national control programmes and WHO country offices so that research results are owned and quickly taken up locally.

40th anniversary

Throughout this year, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the resolution at the World Health Assembly that led to the creation of TDR. We’ll be hosting a stellar panel at the Assembly on Friday, 23 May, to review two major achievements – working toward the elimination of visceral leishmaniasis in Bangladesh, and changing the delivery system of the annual mass treatment for onchocerciasis, otherwise called river blindness, into a community-directed process that is now used for 60 million Africans.

In both cases, the success is due to researchers working together from the start with those in public health control and policy. The lessons learned provide a fascinating framework for what I expect will be a dynamic discussion.

We’ll have more on the full anniversary schedule of events during the Assembly, but you can always consult our history site for the latest.

For more information, please contact

Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289
E-mail:guthj@who.int

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