Thirty of the world’s leading infectious disease researchers gathered at Harvard on October 19th and 20th to brainstorm about the future of deadly diseases in Africa.
While modern medicine and technology have diminished the threat of many infectious disease pathogens in high-income countries, infectious diseases account for more than 17 million deaths worldwide every year. A significant number of those deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Harvard has a long history of research collaborations with African universities and NGOs. While most research has centered on a particular disease such as HIV/AIDS or malaria, research findings often have broad implications for global health practice and policy.
Raabya Rossenkhan was always interested in science, so majoring in biology at the University of Botswana (UB) was an obvious choice. When she was offered a scholarship to continue her education, she saw the need to study HIV/AIDS. The year was 2003. In Botswana, the HIV prevalence among pregnant women was almost 40%.
Though he is now an Associate Professor in HIV/AIDS Research at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, as well as the Scientific Director of the HIV Pathogenesis Programme at the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, not so long ago Thumbi Ndung’u was a graduate student working with Max Essex at the Harvard AIDS Initiative.
He earned his PhD from Harvard in 2001, receiving the Haber Award in recognition of his “outstanding, original and creative thesis work that makes a fundamental contribution to our understanding of a biological problem important to public health.” After graduation he returned to Africa to work as a Research Scientist and the Laboratory Director at the Botswana–Harvard Partnership. He currently works in KwaZulu Natal, where approximately 40% of women reporting to antenatal clinics are HIV positive. His research focuses on HIV pathogenesis, host genetics, viral factors, and immune responses.
On a recent visit to Boston, Dr. Ndung’u spoke with Spotlight Editor, Martha Henry.