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Insight blog: Posts tagged with global health

Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.

From deep-sea sponges to dragonfly wings: Superbug research from unexpected places

12 Nov 2018

From the Atlantic Ocean to our own backyards, our researchers have been hunting high and low for inspiration to help better understand and tackle superbugs. For World Antibiotic Awareness Week Jonathan Pearce, MRC’s Head of Infections and Immunity, highlights some of the remarkable interdisciplinary teams carrying out this fascinating research.

Today, more than ever, we’re aware of antibiotic resistance as a growing, global problem that desperately needs an answer. According to recent reports, by 2050 superbugs could kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.

Petri dishes showing bacteria cultures.

Over the past five years alone, in partnership with the other UKRI councils, we’ve made huge efforts to better understand this threat and find solutions –  together investing £44 million in 78 UK projects and £41 million in projects worldwide. Collaboration helps fire up imagination, insight and innovation. That’s why we’ve brought together researchers with different skills and experiences across the sciences, engineering, arts and humanities. [...]

Continue reading: From deep-sea sponges to dragonfly wings: Superbug research from unexpected places

Standing up to global mental health stigma

8 Oct 2018

We’ve recently funded Professor Sir Graham Thornicroft, a leading expert in research on mental health discrimination and stigma, to carry out a global study. On the day of the world’s first Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit, he sets out what stigma looks like across the globe and how his study will make a difference.

Graham Thornicroft

Around one in four people will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives, and this year alone around 450 million people worldwide have a mental health condition. Our research shows that in many countries 80 to 90% of them experience negative stigma and discrimination. [...]

It’s so important we carry out research on how to improve this situation globally. Over the last decade, in over a dozen countries including the UK, there have been national anti-stigma programmes and the evidence shows that these can be effective. But so far, all of these programmes have been in high-income countries.

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Shining a light on brain development

2 Oct 2018

Clare Elwell with infant taking part in the study: Image credit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Clare Elwell with infant taking part in the BRIGHT study: Image credit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Since recording the first brain images of babies in Africa, Professor Clare Elwell (Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, UCL) has been leading a pioneering study to increase our understanding of early brain development. Here Clare tells us about bringing a new imaging technology to a remote Gambian village, and how it could help babies suffering from malnutrition reach their full potential.

Before they reach five years of age, one in four children across the globe are malnourished. There’s a lot of research showing the detrimental impact this has on their development. But we know very little about what’s going on inside their brains. [...]

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To stop AIDS we must reach the ‘mobile population’

23 Aug 2018

Janet Seeley

For the past three decades, Janet Seeley, Professor of Anthropology and Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has been engaged in HIV research across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. For the last 10 years, she has led the Social Aspects of Health Across the Lifecourse programme in the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Uganda Research Unit. Here she tells us about some of the challenges in getting HIV testing and treatment to everyone in need.

 If everyone living with HIV takes an HIV test and knows their status, and if everyone with an HIV-positive test begins antiretroviral therapy (ART) HIV treatment rapidly, this enhances their chance of living a healthy life into old age. That treatment can also reduce the amount of virus in a person’s body to such a low level that they will not pass the virus on to others.

This is universal test and treat, a strategy aimed at getting everyone who is living with HIV on to treatment and thus significantly increasing the proportion of people who are aware of their HIV status and receiving that treatment. [...]

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Lessons on how to foster interdisciplinary research

15 Mar 2018

As one of the first cross-council interdisciplinary initiatives, The Environmental and Social Ecology of Human Infectious Diseases Initiative (ESEI)* was developed to respond proactively to the global problem of potential pandemic, epidemic and emerging infectious diseases. Five years on, MRC Programme Manager Morven Roberts shares lessons learnt from the initiative about how to foster future waves of interdisciplinary research.

In the last five years, the Ebola, Zika and yellow fever outbreaks – as well as the critical challenge presented by antimicrobial resistance – have provided continued impetus for research to understand the drivers of emerging or re-emerging infections. [...]

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Working life: Dr Oluwafemi Akande

21 Feb 2018

Dr Oluwafemi Akande, a Postdoc Fellow of the Africa Research Excellence Fund, began his career in a field far removed from global health research. But by combining his knowledge of building design with his interest in public health, he’s hoping to realise his passion of improving people’s wellbeing.

Dr Oluwafemi Akande

Career in brief: [...]

  • BSc and MSc in Architecture from University of Jos, Nigeria
  • PhD in Strategic Energy Management for Retrofit and Refurbishment of UK Listed Building from Anglia Ruskin University, UK
  • Postdoc Fellow of Africa Research Excellence Fund and Visiting Academic, School of Engineering, University of Leeds, UK
  • Senior Lecturer, Department of Architecture, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Nigeria.

Continue reading: Working life: Dr Oluwafemi Akande

Celebrating 70 years of global health research in The Gambia

20 Dec 2017

A symposium last month, to mark the 70th anniversary of MRC Unit The Gambia, revealed how much progress has been made in global health – and how much remains to be done. Pauline Mullin, the MRC’s Partnership Communications Manager for the unit, was there to find out.

Delegates at MRC Unit The Gambia 70th Anniversary Symposium

Professor Umberto D’Alessandro, MRC Unit The Gambia Director, with delegates at the 70th Anniversary Symposium [...]

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GCRF: don’t judge a book by its cover (or title)

4 Oct 2017

In 2016, the then-government introduced a new approach to funding science and research targeted at urgent problems being faced by people the world over: the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which the MRC helps to deliver. Rachael Sara-Kennedy, Head of International Partnerships at Universities UK, says we must look beyond the face value of overseas research funding to see how it benefits us all.

The GCRF enables our universities and world-class research base to access resources drawn from the government’s overseas aid budget – the Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding to help fight global challenges. The fund represents a not insignificant slice of the government’s commitment to spend 0.7% GDP on overseas aid. [...]

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Working life: Dr Pauline Williams

30 Aug 2017

Dr Pauline Williams leads global health research and development at GSK and recently became an MRC Council member. Here she tells us about mixing science with business, and the satisfaction of making a life-saving gel from an antiseptic mouthwash.

Dr Pauline Williams, Senior VP and Head of Global Health Research and Development at GlaxoSmithKline and MRC Council member

Dr Pauline Williams, GlaxoSmithKline. Image credit: GlaxoSmithKline

Career in brief:

  • Medicine degree, University of Cardiff
  • Clinical Pharmacology physician, Glaxo Phase I Unit
  • Head of Academic Discovery Performance Unit, GSK
  • Senior Vice President and Head of Global Health R&D, GSK

It was the rigour and excitement of early drug development that tempted me away from medicine. I did a stint at a Phase I Clinical Pharmacology Unit after my medical training – and following that I was enticed by an offer to join Glaxo (now GSK) where I’ve worked ever since. My first role was a full immersion in the design, conduct and reporting of experimental medicine studies which has stood me in good stead throughout my career. [...]

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Supporting mothers with HIV and depression to help children thrive

4 Aug 2017

Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Alan Stein is helping HIV-positive women with depression during pregnancy and the postnatal period. By improving their wellbeing he wants to help their children get the best start in life. He explains what his team has achieved so far in South Africa and the global implications of this work.

Professor Alan Stein

Imagine receiving an HIV diagnosis when you’re pregnant. You’re bringing a new life into the world. Then you receive news that you have an infection which requires lifelong treatment. You’re unsure if you will pass it onto your child and you may feel stigmatised. Disclosing your HIV status to your partner, or family, may also be a major worry. [...]

Continue reading: Supporting mothers with HIV and depression to help children thrive