Imperial and MIT announce winners of first Africa-focused seed fund

8 Mar 2019 - 09:15

Imperial College London and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have announced the winners of the first Africa-focused seed fund. The funded projects will bring scientists together from Imperial, MIT and partner institutions­­ in Africa, to work on infectious disease, high energy physics and eco-friendly refrigerants. The MIT - Africa - Imperial College London Seed Fund promotes early-stage collaboration between faculty and researchers at MIT, Imperial College London and institutions in Africa. The funding, worth $100,000 in total, will be used for exploratory research, small-scale experiments and for exchanges between the partner institutions.

Imperial’s Vice-President (International) Professor Maggie Dallman, said: “These exciting projects bring together teams from three continents to further our understanding in physics, infectious disease and energy. “Imperial’s excellence arises from attracting talented people and working with leading institutions from across many different regions and we are eager to grow and strengthen our collaborations with partners in Africa.” Imperial has dozens of research projects taking place across Africa.

Professor Hazel Sive, Director of the MIT-Africa initiative emphasizes the outstanding quality of MIT – Africa – Imperial collaborations. “The funded projects bring together investigators of the highest calibre. We look forward to promoting this wonderful opportunity at top universities across African countries. “MIT has set Africa as a priority region for global engagement, and such high impact joint research programs contribute to strengthening mutually beneficial connections with African colleagues.” The MIT- Africa - Imperial College London Seed Fund is one of over 20 Funds facilitated by MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI).

Successful award winners include fluorescence detection of tuberculosis transmission. The “fluorTB” consortium comprising researchers from MIT, Imperial and the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa will investigate how tuberculosis (TB) is transmitted. South Africa has a high incidence of TB and researchers at UCT have developed personal clean room technology to investigate when TB is transmitted – for example, whether it spreads through actions such as talking as well as coughing – and how quickly anti-TB therapy prevents the release of infectious aerosols. The MIT - Africa - Imperial College London Seed funding will allow researchers at MIT and Imperial to explore the use of advanced fluorescence labelling – causing live bacteria to glow in a manner that will increase their visibility under a microscope.  The research could help restrict the spread of TB in the future by helping doctors to determine which patients are most infectious. UCT’s Professor Digby Warner said: “This collaboration is very exciting as it offers the potential to speed up detection of viable TB aerosols, thereby increasing the efficacy of therapeutic interventions which can be targeted to infectious individuals in real-time.”

Principal Investigators: Dr Brian Robertson, Imperial, Professor Laura Kiessling, MIT, Professor Digby Warner, University of Cape Town.