University of Glasgow receives £2.7m award for sleeping sickness research

Published: 2 November 2012

A University of Glasgow scientist has secured a £2.7m award to help advance the fight against a fatal parasitic disease

A University of Glasgow scientist has secured a £2.7m award to help advance the fight against a fatal parasitic disease.

Dr Annette MacLeod, of the University’s Wellcome Trust Centre for Molecular Parasitology, received the money from the US National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Wellcome Trust to help establish a network of African scientists  and conduct genomic research on African sleeping sickness. The grant is part of the Wellcome Trust Human Heredity and Health in Africa Consortium (H3Africa).

Sleeping sickness is endemic in 36 sub-Saharan countries, exposing 60 million people to the risk of infection. Transmitted by the tsetse fly and caused by the trypanosome parasite, it causes brain inflammation and swelling and is invariably fatal if left untreated. It is estimated that at least 30,000 people are currently infected.

The Wellcome Trust and NIH are working together on H3Africa, which aims to improve the health of Africans through the study of genomics and environmental determinants of common diseases. The project will help develop expertise among African scientists, foster increased collaboration among African investigators, enhance the infrastructure for genomics research in Africa, and contribute to training the next generation of African researchers in the use of contemporary genomic approaches in the study of important health problems.

Dr MacLeod said: “African sleeping sickness is a disease that claims the life of tens of thousands of the poorest people in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, despite its importance, research into this disease has lagged behind that of diseases of developed countries.

“Through TrypanoGEN we aim to redress this imbalance and apply the latest advances in scientific research to this disease and in the process train the next generation of African scientists, allowing them to conduct further high-quality research into this and other neglected tropical diseases.”

Dr MacLeod’s award was one of eight recently announced by H3Africa as part of a series of funding initiatives over the next five years totalling around £15.6m. Other African genomic research projects will examine conditions including kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, tuberculosis.

Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said, "If we are to help tackle the growing burden of disease in Africa, it is important that we build capacity within the continent for African researchers and their institutions in order to understand the genetic and environmental causes of illness.

“The geographical breadth of participating institutions shows that H3Africa is about doing just this, enabling the scientists themselves to drive forward the African research agenda."

For more information on H3Africa visit

First published: 2 November 2012

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