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NIAID Celebrates 20-Year Partnership with Malian Scientists

On January 11, 2010, an NIAID delegation visited Bancoumana, Mali, to join Malian government officials, community leaders, and local villagers to commemorate a 20-year partnership between NIAID and the University of Bamako School of Medicine. The commemoration culminated with the naming of a community-based laboratory and clinical research site after John R. LaMontagne, Ph.D., who served as NIAID deputy director from 1998 until his death in 2004.

The NIAID delegation met with many Malian government officials, including the President of Mali, who bestowed the high honor of Chevalier of the Nation posthumously to Dr. LaMontagne. Malian and U.S. scientists also held a symposium in honor of the 20-year-old scientific partnership, which was initiated to conduct research on the Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit malaria.

In 2002, NIAID recognized this longstanding research collaboration by establishing an International Center of Excellence in Research (ICER) in Mali. The NIAID ICER program is designed to build sustainable research capacity in regions with a high infectious disease burden. At present, the Mali ICER provides in-country support for state-of-the-art laboratories at the University of Bamako and laboratory field sites in the villages of Bancoumana, Doneguebougou, and Bandiagara.

The scientific priorities of the ICER now encompass research on malaria pathogenesis; testing of candidate malaria vaccines; and clinical research on filariasis, leishmaniasis, and HIV/TB co-infection. In 2008, scientists from NIAID and the University of Bamako initiated a collaboration to study relapsing fever, a bacterial illness spread by ticks. The training of young scientists has always been an integral component of the ICER program. Over the last 20 years, the program has trained dozens of young Malian scientists at academic institutions and laboratories in Mali and the United States.

Photo of Malian officials escorting Elaine La Montagne
Elaine LaMontagne is escorted by Malian officials and welcomed by local villagers to dedicate a new laboratory in the memory of her husband and former NIAID Deputy Director John R. LaMontagne, Ph.D.
Photo credit: U.S. Embassy in Mali

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Last Updated February 28, 2010