Mali ICER Program

In Mali, West Africa, the International Centers for Excellence in Research (ICER) program was established based on experience gained from NIAID long-standing malaria research collaboration with Malian scientists, academic leadership, and the Malian government. Malaria researchers from the NIAID Division of Intramural Research initiated a collaboration focused on malaria entomology in 1989 with counterparts at the National School of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bamako. At the time, Mali was selected as an ideal site for collaboration because of a recognized team of Malian researchers already working on the genetics and cytogenetics of Anopheles gambiae, the primary vector of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Shortly thereafter, the Malaria Research and Training Center (MRTC) was established at the National School of Medicine and Pharmacy to facilitate research in collaboration with NIAID and other international partners.

The research laboratories and support facilities at the National School of Medicine and Pharmacy (which became the Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacy and Oral Surgery in 1995 when the University of Mali was founded) were expanded significantly in the early 1990s with support from NIAID and other international partners. The scope of research activities was further expanded in subsequent years to include other aspects of malaria research and research on other parasitic and viral diseases. Since 2002 when the ICER was established in Mali, the MRTC has continued as a Malian entity affiliated, as are other research program entities, with the NIAID-supported ICER.

Drs. Heinz Feldmann and Dave Safronetz, wearing hats, confer with Malian counterparts who invited them to assist with training and preparation for a potential outbreak of Ebola infection.  Credit: NIAID

Drs. Heinz Feldmann and Dave Safronetz, wearing hats, confer with Malian counterparts who invited them to assist with training and preparation for a potential outbreak of Ebola infection.  


Drs. Heinz Feldmann and Dave Safronetz, wearing hats, confer with Malian counterparts who invited them to assist with training and preparation for a potential outbreak of Ebola infection.  


Today, the Mali ICER consists of multiple laboratories, including a College of American Pathologists (CAP)-accredited clinical laboratory and a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory at the Faculties of Medicine and Oral Surgery and of Pharmacy (which were separated when the University of Bamako—previously named the University of Mali—was divided into four universities with these faculties falling under the University of Sciences, Techniques, and Technology of Bamako or USTTB) and several clinical field sites within a 100 Km radius of Bamako, in addition to one on the Bandiagara plateau. The current ICER research areas include: malaria epidemiology and vaccine studies, malaria immunological studies, ecological studies on the malaria mosquito vectors; basic and clinical studies in leishmaniasis; clinical studies on filariasis and clinical studies on HIV/TB co-infections.

In 2008, intramural scientists from the NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Montana initiated studies on arthropod vectors and animal reservoirs that transmit relapsing fever. In 2009, RML scientists and their Malian collaborators confirmed the presence of Lassa virus in Mali. These scientific teams are now developing a research program to screen for and study other hemorrhagic fever viruses in the country. As part of its program in Mali, NIAID has provided significant training opportunities to young Malians both in- country as well as at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Detailed Information on Mali ICER Cooperative Research Programs and Facilities

Medical Entomology Program

  • Molecular Entomology
  • Cytogenetics
  • Molecular Ecology
  • GIS/Remote Sensing
  • Vector Proteomics
  • Vector Bioinformatics
  • Malaria Immunology
  • Malaria Pathogenesis
  • Leishmaniasis
  • Acarology
  • Filariasis
  • Lassa fever
  • Relapsing fever
  • Virology

Parasitology/Vaccine Development Program

  • Vaccine trial data center
  • Vaccine trial field sites
  • Drug research
  • Insecticide resistance


  • BSL-3 TB laboratory
  • HIV/TB laboratories

Core Facilities

  • Library/conference room Lunch room
  • Freezer room
  • Motor pool storage facilities (laboratory supplies)
  • Guest house, with dining facility, computer room
  • Administrative offices
  • Emergency power system
  • VSAT communication satellite system with links to the internal NIH IT systems and to study sites in remote villages
  • Video conference rooms
  • Core immunology laboratory
  • CAP-accredited clinical laboratory

Field Sites

The Mali ICER maintains several field and clinical research sites throughout the country, including sites for field testing of candidate vaccines and drug testing. The center has conducted major studies in Mopti, Koro, Niono, Bandiagara, Bancoumana, Sotuba, Donegebougou, Kenieroba, Tienegoubougou, Kambila, Kalifabougou, Ouelessebougou, and Thierola.


The current staff consists of approximately 220 researchers, administrative staff, support personnel, and students. All Malian staff members are supported through a contract with the USTTB. Of special note, the center hosts several senior Malian medical, pharmacy, and biology students, as well as students from neighboring African countries who are conducting hands-on research for their M.D., Pharm.D., and Ph.D. theses.

NIH-supported programs are overseen by two American direct hires: a resident scientist who manages day to day scientific operations; as well as a country representative and director of the NIAID/NIH Mali Office, who administers programs and serves as a liaison between the U.S. and Malian government and non-government entities.

Training Programs

NIAID quality management specialist Joe Shott trains Malian scientists on good clinical research practices. Credit: NIAID

NIAID quality management specialist Joe Shott trains Malian scientists on good clinical research practices.


NIAID quality management specialist Joe Shott trains Malian scientists on good clinical research practices.


Since the beginning of the collaboration in Mali, NIH has facilitated the training of Malian students in Mali, in the United States, and at various research centers in Canada, Japan, and Europe. The Mali ICER also provides a unique venue to train scientists from the United States and other countries. USTTB is now part of the NIH graduate partnership program, which offers an opportunity for doctoral candidates at USTTB to complete their research thesis in laboratories at NIH and then return to Mali to defend their theses and obtain their doctoral degrees from USTTB.

Ongoing NIH-Funded Projects (2014)

Following are summaries of the various NIH-funded projects currently being conducted at the Mali ICER.

Project Name Dates Study Site(s) Ongoing Protocol(s)
Intramural Projects
Malaria Vector Ecology 2004 to present Thierola and surrounding villages Studies all aspects of malaria vector ecology with the aim of uncovering ecological factors which may be exploited to help control malaria transmission.
Malaria Transmission Assay Development and Gametocyte Carriage (Pfs25 vaccine trial) 2011 to present Bancoumana Development of an assay to evaluate the potential of a candidate malaria transmission-blocking vaccine.
Immuno-Epidemiology 2011 to present Ouelessebougou A study of host and parasite factors that influence susceptibility to malarial infection and disease during pregnancy and early childhood.
Lymphatic Filariasis 2004 to present Tieneguebougou Study of mass drug administration, assessment of new drugs and treatment strategies, and co-infections with malaria.
Longitudinal Study of Healthy Volunteers to Determine if Malaria Resistance is Associated with Acquisition of Specific Memory B-Cells 2010 to present Kambila A study designed to test the hypothesis that resistance to malaria is associated with the acquisition of B memory cells specific to P. falciparum.
Lassa Fever, relapsing fever and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever 2009 to present Soromba and surrounding villages Study to map the prevalence of these diseases in Mali by analyzing tick and rodent reservoirs.
Longitudinal Systems Biological Analysis of Naturally-Acquired Malaria Immunity 2011 to present Kalifabougou Identify gene expression profiles induced byP. falciparum infections associated with malaria immunity
Leishmaniasis 2004 to present Baraoueli Surveillance of cutaneous leishmaniasis vector studies and vaccine development
Tick-borne Relapsing Fever in Mali 2009 to present Multiple sites Surveillance of various sites in Mali for tick-borne relapsing fever, vector studies and isolation of the parasite.
Activated Charcoal study 2013 to present Kenerioba Open labeled randomized controlled trial to test a novel therapeutic intervention that aims at reducing the morbidity caused by severe malaria infection in children using charcoal tabs.
PfSPZ vaccine trial 2014 to present Doneguebougou Double blind, randomized controlled trial evaluating the safety and immunogenicity of a novel malaria vaccine candidate in Malian adults.
Extramural Projects
SEREFO 2004 to present Multiple sites

Study to assess the relationship of co-infection with HIV and tuberculosis

  • Establishment of normal parameters for blood and sputum with samples obtained from volunteers in Bamako.
  • Sensitivity and Specificity of Oral Urea Breath Testing for Presumptive Diagnosis and Treatment Response in Pulmonary Tuberculosis in Bamako, Mali.
  • Strategic Timing of Anti-Retroviral Treatment (START).
  • Utility of MODS (Microscopic - Observation Drug-Susceptibility assay) for the Diagnosis of MDR-TB and Second-Line Antituberculous Drug-Susceptibility Testing in Mali.
International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMR) 2010 to present Multiple sites in Mali, Senegal, and Gambia

Studies aimed to characterize and understand

  • The heterogeneity of malaria infection, disease and transmission
  • The effects of control strategies on malaria transmission and pathogenesis
  • The major obstacles to improving malaria control and potentially eliminating malaria, including drug and insecticide resistance
Tropical Medicine Research Centers (TMRC) 2012 to present Multiple sites in Mali and Ghana Study of cutaneous leishmaniasis and filariasis co-infections in West-Africa
Malaria Bandiagara Project 2005 to Present Bandiagara Study of the genetic diversity and protective immunity to malaria infection and disease
President’s Malaria Initiative Collaborations with USAID
IRS Monitoring in 3 District Sentinel Site 2008 to present Bla, Koulikoro, and Baraoueli Monitoring of vector populations, biting behavior, malaria transmission dynamics and determining insecticide resistance status.
Strengthening National Malaria Control Capability in Case Management 2008 to present Multiple sites Training health workers in malaria diagnostics (microscopy and RDT) and malaria surveillance trough case management.
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