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Fogarty International Center (FIC)

Friday, January 23, 2004

Irene Edwards

Fogarty International Center Announces First Awards for Collaborative Research Program for Brain Disorders in the Developing World

Bethesda, Maryland — The Fogarty International Center (FIC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and eight NIH partners* announce 31 new research planning grants to support international collaborations to study brain disorders in developing countries. The current combined financial commitment from FIC and its partners for the first phase of this program is approximately $8.1 million to support these two-year grants.

This new program grew out of the recognition of the enormous global burden of disease posed by mental illness and a variety of conditions affecting brain function, or brain disorders for short. Currently, brain disorders are responsible for 27 percent of all years lived with disability (YLDs) in developing countries and, with the exception of Sub-Saharan Africa, are the leading contributors to YLDs in all regions of the world.

In the design phase, FIC convened a consultation of experts, led by Nobel Laureate Torsten Wiesel, with significant representation from developing countries, to discuss challenges and opportunities for scientific study in this field. Areas considered, now integral to the program, included research, and training in developmental brain disorders, epilepsy, neurological trauma and injury, schizophrenia and depression, and acquired cognitive disorders of adults, including dementia due to HIV infection and other causes.

"The suffering from brain disorders and mental illness, along with their concomitant social and economic impacts strain individuals as well as entire families, diminishing productivity and quality of life for all members," said FIC Acting Director Dr. Sharon Hrynkow, on behalf of the partners. "While cost-effective treatments to reduce the burden of certain brain disorders, including epilepsy, schizophrenia and depression, are available in the developed world, this is not the case in the developing world. This program will support research on brain disorders and mental illness to develop new interventions that will benefit low-income populations around the world, and particularly in developing countries." Dr. Hrynkow added, "advances made along this line hold promise for interventions available more broadly, including here at home."

Each of the new projects will assess needs, develop collaborations and necessary resources, carry out feasibility and pilot studies, and put the necessary elements in place to create a strong collaborative research project that will contribute to the long-term goal of building sustainable research capacity in neurological/neurodevelopmental impairment. FIC anticipates that at the end of two years, an RFA will be issued to solicit applications for R01 research projects, which will be open to all applicants.

*NIH partners are the National Institute on Aging, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the Office of Dietary Supplements.

The successful applicants are as follows:

Dr. Barbara Bonner, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, and colleagues at St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia, will collaborate on a study that aims to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and alcohol- related neurodevelopmental disorders (ARND) in Russian children.

Dr. Waldemar Carlo, University of Alabama at Birmingham, is collaborating with researchers at the University Teaching Hospital, Lusaka, Zambia and Lusaka Urban District Health Management on a project that will look at the incidence and type of neurodevelopmental impairments that follow perinatal asphyxia and will establish a pilot program to test whether early, home-based, low-cost interventions can reduce cognitive impairment among affected infants.

Dr. Randall Chestnut, Oregon Health Science University, Portland, will work with colleagues at the Hospital de Ninos Superiora Sor Maria Ludovica La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina to improve outcomes of pediatric traumatic brain injury in Latin America. The project will test mechanisms for dissemination of treatment information and create a structure to facilitate brain trauma research, education, certification, and information exchange among professionals and institutions.

Dr. Christopher Clark, University of Pennsylvania, will collaborate with colleagues at the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas, Mexico City, Mexico, to conduct Alzheimer's disease-related research, training and infrastructure building in Mexico. The project will eventually involve collaboration with Alzheimer's disease centers in the U.S. on development and implementation of joint clinical education programs and clinical research training programs that focus on brain aging and dementia.

Dr. Timothy Flanigan, Miriam Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island, will collaborate with researchers at YRG Care, Chennai, India on a study that examines neurocognitive consequences of HIV/AIDS in South India, where treatment of HIV with highly active antiretroviral therapy is frequently delayed or unavailable, resulting in a high prevalence of HIV-associated problems, including severe immunosuppression and brain dysfunction.

Dr. Karen Furie, Massachusetts General Hospital, will work with scientists at the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil on an assessment of stroke risk and outcome in Chagas Disease. The project aims to establish non-invasive methods of risk stratification, and prediction of outcome in patients and to facilitate the development of novel anti-trypanosomal, anti-inflammatory, and antithrombotic strategies for stroke prevention and management in Brazil.

Dr. Conrad Gilliam, Columbia University Genome Center, is working with colleagues at the University of Zulia, Venezuela to investigate the effects of life conditions and environmental exposures, together with genetic factors, on the expression of specific cognitive abilities. The study will focus on disorders common in Venezuela, including Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease and vascular dementia.

Dr. Karl Goodkin, University of Miami, with colleagues at the Fundacion Huesped, Buenos Aires, Argentina will conduct a study to assess HIV-associated cognitive impairments, including HIV-1 cognitive-motor disorders such as AIDS dementia.

Dr. Gustavo Rodolfo Goya, INBIO La Plata School of Medicine, University of La Plata, Argentina will work with colleagues at Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois to address the potential of gene therapy in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. They will study virally-mediated gene therapy of neuroendocrine abnormalities associated with aging, and gene therapy of prolactinomas.

Dr. Elena Grigorenko, Yale University, and colleagues at the University of Zambia are collaborating on a study that will establish a network of Zambian and international researchers to conduct future large scale epidemiological studies of learning disabilities in Zambia.

Dr. Richard Guerrant, University of Virginia, with collaborators at the Federal University of Ceara, Brazil, will collaborate on a study that examines Apoe Genotype in Brazilian children with early diarrhea. The researchers will investigate whether the greatest long-term impact of persistent and recurring diarrheal illnesses on cognitive development occurs in children who carry APOE 4 alleles, a well-known genetic marker related to poor recovery following brain injury, but not with cognitive function in healthy children.

Dr. Michael Hambidge, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and colleagues at Debub University, Ethiopia are working on a study that looks at the issue of zinc deficiency and its subsequent behavioral and developmental effects in Ethiopia.

Dr. Penny Holding, Kenya Medical Research Institute, will work with researchers at City University, London, United Kingdom to develop a measure of brain insults in Kenyan children. The investigators will monitor and evaluate the psychomotor development of infants and young children to provide scientists in East Africa with a methodology for the investigation of the sequelae of brain disorders of pre-natal and peri-natal origin.

Dr. Ann Jacoby, University of Liverpool, and colleagues at Beijing Neurological Institute, China, the World Health Organization, and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam on a study that aims to understand and reduce the stigma surrounding people with epilepsy in China and Vietnam.

Dr. Chandy John, Case Western Reserve University, and researchers at Makerere University, Uganda are undertaking a study on cognitive and neurologic sequelae in cerebral malaria. The long-term goal is to relate specific immune responses to infectious diseases to subsequent neurological and neuropsychological deficits in individuals who are admitted to the hospital with malaria.

Dr. Annette Karmiloff-Smith, University of London Institute of Child Health, will collaborate with colleagues at Zhejiang University, China, and University College London, UK on a project whose goal is to develop a collaborative research program on cognitive and brain phenotypes of mentally retarded Chinese children with genetic disorders (Fragile-X syndrome, Williams syndrome, and Down syndrome).

Dr. Kenneth Kosik, Brigham and Women's Hospital, will work with colleagues at the University of Antioquia, Colombia on a study that focuses on the genetic mechanisms of two neurodegenerative disorders, Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease. The study will develop RNAi approaches to 'knock-down' expression of BACE, an enzyme involved in the cleavage of APP to A-beta, and a similar approach to 'knock-down' Huntington's.

Dr. John Leventhal, Yale University, will work with colleagues at Ankara University, Turkey on a collaboration that aims to develop infrastructure and strengthen the capacity to conduct research in Turkey on the recognition, prevention and treatment of developmental problems and disabilities in infants, young children and their families.

Dr. Laurie Miller, New England Medical Center Hospitals, will work with researchers at Murmansk Children's Hospital in Russia on a project that looks at neurodevelopmental outcomes in Russian orphanages. The study will explore the contributions of the environment in promoting optimal brain development in young children and will be part of the development of a center for training in evidence-based research to prevent and reduce developmental disabilities among these children.

Dr. Avindra Nath, Johns Hopkins University, and researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, India are undertaking a study on HIV-Clade C presence and effects in brain tissue. This project proposes to establish assays for detection and quantification of HIV in brain tissue, develop related projects to address the neuropathogenesis of HIV infection, and develop a design for therapeutic approaches and vaccine development.

Dr. Craig Newschaffer, Johns Hopkins University, is working with colleagues at Peking University, Beijing, China and The Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, Maryland on a study that aims to build collaborations and research capacity around the conduct of epidemiological research of autism spectrum disorders in China.

Dr. Dushyant Purohit, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, will work with researchers at TN Medical College/Nair Hospital, Mumbai, India to develop and facilitate studies on age-related cognitive loss in Alzheimer's disease and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr. Robert Ryder, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Public Health, will work with colleagues at the University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, the African Research Center, Catholic University, Leuven, Belgium, and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to study the interface between HIV infections and psychiatric disorders in women, particularly major depression and bipolar illness, and to strengthen research capacity at the Kinshasa School of Public Health in the area of psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Geoffrey Solarsh, University of Natal, South Africa will work with colleagues at the Center for International Child Health, London, UK; and the University of Natal, the University of Pretoria; and The Valley Trust Disability Action Rehabilitation Team, all in South Africa, on a project whose goal is to develop a multi-disciplinary research group of South African and U.S. researchers who will study developmental disabilities of HIV infection in two-six year old South African children.

Dr. Jonathan Stiles, Morehouse School of Medicine, is working with researchers at the Malaria Research Center in Jabalpur, India on a study of cerebral malaria-associated neurological disorders in India. The study will test the hypothesis that cerebral malaria causes neurologic impairment and cognitive dysfunction via an immune-mediated mechanism.

Dr. Annelies Van Rie, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill will collaborate with colleagues at Kinshasa School of Public Health, DRC Congo/Brazzaville, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa on a cross sectional study that addresses the neurodevelopment of children confronted with HIV/AIDS and the need to train qualified investigators, especially sub-Saharan Africans, to lead research efforts.

Dr. Jasmin Vassileva, University of Illinois at Chicago, will work with colleagues at St. Naum State University Hospital of Neu, Sofia, Bulgaria on a project to develop a program of studies with the long-term goals of investigating neurocognitive aspects of brain function in drug addicts with and without a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder/psychopathy.

Dr. Roberta White, Boston University Medical Campus and colleagues at the University of Capetown, South Africa will collaborate on a study that looks at the neurodevelopmental effects on children of prenatal exposure to agricultural pesticides that contaminate many parts of rural South Africa.

Dr. Gwendolyn Zahner, Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina will work with colleagues at Peking Union Medical College, China on a project to organize, plan, and develop research on epidemiological trends in the 10-year incidence and mortality of dementia in four Chinese regional centers.

Dr. Michael Zigmond, University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa and the University of South Africa are working on a study that aims to understand the role of stress in contributing to the vulnerability of the developing and mature brain to neurotoxic insults that can lead to psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Joseph Zunt, University of Washington, is working with colleagues at the Instituto de Ciencias Neurologicas, Universidad de Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru on a study that addresses the issue of central nervous system infections affecting Peruvians. Pilot studies will focus on HIV/AIDs, related co-infections, and acute viral meningoencephalitis.

FIC is the international component of the NIH. It promotes and supports scientific discovery internationally and mobilizes resources to reduce disparities in global health. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Press releases and other FIC-related materials are available at www.fic.nih.gov.

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