Tuberculosis research project wins Times Higher Education award
4 December 2013
A UCL research and training project centred on a diagnostic test for tuberculosis (TB) won the Times Higher Education (THE) International Collaboration of the Year award at a ceremony in London last week.
The project, led by Professor Alimuddin Zumla (UCL Infection & Immunity), set out to test the effectiveness of new diagnostic technology used in Zambia and Tanzania. The test was found to be simple to use, gave a result within two hours, and could also detect drug-resistant forms of TB.
TB still leads to about 1.4 million deaths across the world each year, according to the World Health Organisation, despite treatment being effective and cheap. The problem is a lack of quick, accurate diagnoses.
The judges noted that the UCL initiative "stood out for the quality of its research and the international collaboration that it entailed." They added: "Tuberculosis is a global emergency that has needed a breakthrough badly. That breakthrough is now at hand thanks to this year's winning entry. The sheer persistence of those collaborating means that a faster, more reliable way of testing TB is now available - and it represents real hope for sufferers and those attempting to halt its spread."
The project was part of a broader TB testing network that linked 12 African institutions with 11 universities in Europe, and focused on training African scientists. It has established a new model for collaboration with African countries, providing training and capacity development to those involved.
Professor Zumla said: "UCL is delighted and honoured to win the Times Higher Education award for the best International Collaboration of the Year. UCL was established in 1826 to provide quality education opportunities regardless of race, religion or gender. The award acknowledges this proud tradition and our obligations to assisting in helping improve the lives and health of disadvantaged and poor populations of the world by developing pioneering, equitable and innovative research and training collaborative partnerships with developing countries.
"The success of our complex multi-country international programme is due to the efforts put into it by a large number of dedicated researchers and educators in several European and African countries. The award recognises a major contribution by UCL that now has a firm presence in 'Global Health' collaborations in sub-Saharan African countries.
"Whilst we have won several international awards, the THE award is a very special one since it acknowledges the training, educational and capacity development aspects of our University of Zambia-UCL Medical School (UNZA-UCLMS) Research & Training Programme, through which over the past 20 years, we have enhanced the careers of hundreds of African scientists, and health personnel, and helped in developing diagnostics and interventions for killer infectious diseases."
Image: Professor Zumla and the UCL/Zambia team at the awards ceremony