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Partners in tuberculosis research

By Susan Green

Ford von Reyn has led a long-term partnership with Muhimbili University in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that recently led to the creation of a new research institute.

For more than a decade, C. Fordham von Reyn, a professor of medicine at Geisel, and his research team have been conducting research to reduce the burden of tuberculosis in Tanzania. Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among people with HIV in Tanzania, and prevention and treatment of both adult and pediatric HIV-TB is a national priority.

DarDar—Dartmouth's successful research and educational partnership with the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania—started with a collaborative TB vaccine trial and grew to include a broad range of related programs. (The name DarDar comes from a combination of Dartmouth and Dar es Salaam.) And last year, von Reyn and colleagues received a five-year, $1.4 million grant from the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a first-of-its-kind, HIV-TB specific research institute at MUHAS.

The new Tuberculosis Research Institute at MUHAS (TRIM-TB) will expand Dartmouth's collaboration on HIV-TB training and research programs there and help build the human, scientific, and administrative capacity necessary for the new institute to manage its own research activities.

"This is our third five-year Fogarty training grant and much of what we've been able to accomplish with our Tanzanian partners is because of this support from the NIH," says von Reyn, director of Geisel's program in Tanzania. "We'll now be able to bring the MUHAS TB research infrastructure up to a level where they'll be able to independently secure funding for their HIV-TB research."

During the five-year project, TRIM-TB will bring together past Fogarty trainees from Tanzania with a faculty core and with new trainees who will complete MPH degrees at Dartmouth and MUHAS and master's and doctoral degrees in pharmacology, public health, and epidemiology at Boston University. Research nurses will be trained in Tanzania at MUHAS.

Additionally, training in ethics, good clinical practice, and HIV-TB research methods will be provided for investigators, along with advanced TB microbiology and immunology.

But the start of this new institute does not mean the end of Geisel's collaboration with its Tanzanian partners. To the contrary, von Reyn says, the TB vaccination work will return in two years and Dartmouth will continue sending students interested in the DarDar programs to Tanzania.

"We're enthusiastic about getting started with this latest partnership," he notes. "I recently returned from a meeting in Paris where we began TRIM-TB planning, and I'll be making a site visit in 2015 to select people for the training."

This project represents what Geisel and Dartmouth can do to help support advances in health care in the developing world, von Reyn says. "We have a lot of experience from the previous 13 years of working together. The idea of moving toward a point where MUHAS in Tanzania will be able to apply for their own independent TB research funding—and for Dartmouth to have played a role in getting them to that point—will be a rewarding achievement for our team."

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