New life of lab equipment makes science possible for researchers returning to their home countries

first_img Warehouse associate Candido Silva moves a laboratory safety cabinet, which was donated to Seeding Labs, ready to start its shipment of medical and laboratory supplies to Nigeria. Kayana Szymczak for STAT Newsletters Sign up for STAT Health Tech Your weekly guide to how tech is transforming health care and life sciences. Trending Now: In the landlocked, sub-Saharan country of Malawi, oftentimes only land separates wells for drinking water from sewage in toilet pits.Cholera, a highly contagious bacterial disease found in contaminated water, becomes a concern when that dividing line disappears during each year’s rainy season. A natural disaster like Cyclone Idai, which struck in March and devastated parts of three countries, makes identifying clean water even more urgent. When UNICEF and Brazilian cholera scientists arrived to test samples just days after the cyclone hit, they needed a local partner who was up to the task.They found one in Gama Bandawe and his lab at the Malawi University of Science and Technology. Just four months earlier, Bandawe had unpacked a 20-foot container filled with the testing equipment he needed from Seeding Labs, a Boston-based nonprofit organization that collects lab equipment in high-income countries and redistributes it at a lower cost to labs in low- and middle-income countries.advertisement Having the right equipment is essential to a research lab; it also fosters partnerships.For Dr. Robert Paulino-Ramirez, the director of the Institute for Tropical Medicine and Global Health at Universidad Iberoamericana in the Dominican Republic, the equipment he received from Seeding Labs in June 2016 was a game-changer.The equipment enabled him to create the Institute of Tropical Medicine and Global Health, a center dedicated to health sciences research at the university.“For the first time, we can collaborate with friends” in high-income countries “at the same level,” he noted.The institute worked with the government to lead the implementation of pre-exposure prophylaxis, known as PrEP, against HIV in the Dominican Republic in 2018. PrEP is a daily pill that substantially lowers the risk of HIV infection among those uninfected but vulnerable.Another study at Paulino-Ramirez’s institute is characterizing the prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases, such as those caused by Zika, dengue, and chikungunya viruses across the country.“The infrastructure is beautiful,” Paulino-Ramirez said. “We don’t have any others like this in the region.”According to the four scientists, better-equipped labs also present the opportunity to share technical skills with other scientists and pass on the knowledge to students.“All the research we do is fantastic,” said Bandawe, the Malawian scientist, “but I think the biggest contribution that we are making to the country is that we’re training this next generation, this next group of scientists.” Comparing the Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson Gama Bandawe (top center) at the Malawi University of Science and Technology. Courtesy Gama BandaweCreating opportunitiesThe idea for Seeding Labs began when Nina Dudnik, the founder and former CEO, returned to the U.S. after conducting research as a Fulbright scholar in a sparsely equipped lab in Côte d’Ivoire. After starting graduate school in 2001, Dudnik and her friends formed a student group to raise awareness of research being conducted abroad. They thought about how they could help scientists in emerging economies conduct their research more effectively.U.S. scientists starting their own labs usually receive startup packages to buy lab equipment and pay students and postdocs for the first couple years. “For a lot of researchers going to places where research isn’t as well-funded, you don’t have any of that. It’s like, here’s some space; go get some grants. Figure out how you’re going to get the grant with no equipment, no students, no postdocs,” said Melissa Wu, the CEO of Seeding Labs who met Dudnik in graduate school and was part of the student group.Starting in 2003, when the group officially became Seeding Labs, it began collecting used lab equipment from universities and biotechs around Boston. It partnered with the Sustainable Sciences Institute, a San Francisco nonprofit whose mission is to improve public health in developing countries, to ship functional lab equipment for postdocs returning to their home countries to set up their labs. From 2003 to 2008, shipments were made to labs in Central America, Argentina, Chile, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.Seeding Labs became a nonprofit organization in 2008 and today, researchers from around the world apply for equipment through its Instrumental Access program. “We were able to show them, here are our laboratories, and here’s the equipment that we have. The next day, samples started arriving,” said Bandawe, the head of biological sciences at the university. He believes it was the equipment his lab had — other labs lacked — that made his lab suitable for the project.“It was magical,” Bandawe recalled when he and his students unloaded the shipment from Seeding Labs and outfitted the lab.advertisement By Diana Cai Aug. 9, 2019 Reprintscenter_img Related: Please enter a valid email address. Leave this field empty if you’re human: Today, the lab studies a variety of indigenous vegetables, legumes, and fruits, among them the African spider plant, Cleome gynandra, and the “miracle berry,” Synsepalum dulcificum.The spider plant, found across Africa, is a leafy vegetable high in several nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, folic acid, iron, and vitamins A and C. Locals traditionally used the plant medicinally, leveraging the anti-inflammatory properties of the plant to relieve local pain by rubbing the leaves on affected areas. Achigan-Dako and collaborators in Benin and the Netherlands hope to cultivate different breeds tailored to the needs of farmers and general consumers.They also hope an indigenous fruit, the miracle berry, can help prevent the increasing rates of diabetes in his country and in the rest of the world. Though the small red berry gives off an unremarkable, mildly sweet taste on its own, it contains miraculin, a protein that binds sweet taste receptors on the tongue and transforms sour, acidic foods such as lemons or pineapples into delectable sweets. The berries are difficult to grow, and Achigan-Dako is testing methods to ease the cultivation of the berries and ultimately reduce processed sugar intake and lower the incidence of diabetes along the way.A well-equipped lab might help make both possible.Enoch Achigan-Dako speaks with students about “miracle berry” cultivation. Courtesy Seeding Labs‘We were dumping our equipment’Today, Seeding Labs partners with over 150 pharmaceutical and biotech companies and research institutions worldwide to take advantage of their excess equipment and resources. Its biggest sponsors include MilliporeSigma (MKKGY), Takeda, Merck (MRK), GE Healthcare (GE), and Cell Signaling Technology.“We were dumping our equipment” before the partnership with Seeding Labs, said Sonia Glace, the global marketing leader at GE Healthcare Life Sciences. Now the equipment is “refurbished” and given new life.In addition to donating equipment, a few companies have also partnered with Seeding Labs to provide training and additional scientific support to the awardees. At MilliporeSigma, employees create videos demonstrating equipment usage through the TeleScience platform. “Our employees love it because it gives them an ability to share knowledge,” said Renee Connolly, the head of global communications at MilliporeSigma, a division of Merck KGaA.“With Takeda, we’re piloting a virtual mentorship program,” said Leah Lindsay, vice president of external relations at Seeding Labs, “where their employees provide input on equipment, questions, and concerns that people have.”Along with receiving equipment donations, Seeding Labs also receives financial support from several of the companies for its operations. According to Lindsay, sponsorships range in size from one-time awards in the thousands to multiyear six-figure partnerships.Revenue consists of 55% corporate partnerships, 35% Instrumental Access program fees, and 10% government grants and philanthropic donations.Together with its partners, Seeding Labs has supported 74 institutions in 35 countries with an estimated $33 million worth of equipment. Around 24,000 students are trained on equipment provided by Seeding Labs each year, the group said, and 1,700 master’s and Ph.D. students have used the equipment to conduct research.Studying growing threatsAmong the recipients is an Indian immunologist tackling two diseases afflicting her country.In Gujarat state, India, the incidence of oral cancers is growing due to heavy tobacco usage. Ratika Srivastava, an assistant professor at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, and her research team are trying to develop affordable therapies for people in the state. Her lab is also conducting research on lupus, a poorly understood autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs. The rate in India is climbing, though, and Srivastava’s lab is characterizing blood cells of Gujarati people with the disease, in hopes of better understanding the disease and ultimately developing a treatment.According to Srivastava, the two diseases her lab focuses on stem from her postdoc work as a cancer biologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and as a lupus researcher at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Bangalore, India. After four years at BMS, she started her own lab.Srivastava received equipment from Seeding Labs in 2018, two years after establishing her lab. The lab was empty when she arrived, and the instruments she received have helped her build up the lab.“It was really, really helpful,” said Srivastava. “We could customize what we need based on our research interests.”Silva moves a pallet of scientific equipment donated to Seeding Labs onto a truck, ready to start its shipment to Nigeria. Kayana Szymczak for STATNext, collaborations. Then, the next generationA glimpse into a 20-foot Seeding Labs shipping container could reveal small items like pipettes and larger ones like chemical fume hoods that protect researchers from toxic substances they are working on. There could be instruments that help regulate reaction temperatures or fixtures that provide uncontaminated space for cells to grow, mix samples, separate samples by density, and magnify tiny objects.Achigan-Dako, the scientist in Benin studying orphan crops, said he received equipment to establish a microscopy unit, a “gene bank” to store seeds of a variety of crops, tissue culture space, a molecular lab, and a biochemistry unit.Although each lab receives anywhere from 100 to 200 pieces of equipment, Seeding Labs is not able to award all equipment on a wish list. Achigan-Dako is still hoping for an analytical chemistry instrument to detect nutrients from crops.Still, Srivastava, the Indian scientist, noted that even if a researcher receives just 60% of the equipment they request, they can “save many years of [their] life.”“One of our researchers said it was like 10 years of equipment coming all at once,” said Lindsay of Seeding Labs. Should taxpayers cover the light bills at university labs? Trump kicks off a tense debate Recipients pay for procurement, storage, shipping, and administrative costs. The fee ranges from $27,000 to $35,000, depending on the country, and researchers in return receive equipment worth roughly $100,000 to $150,000 on the secondhand market. Though economical, the researchers still need to raise funds and garner institutional support.“What we’re really trying to do is create opportunities and help scientists get the resources that they need to use science to solve the problems that they see in the communities around them and that they see globally,” said Wu.Lab equipment donated to Seeding Labs, ready to be inventoried, packed, and processed in the Barrett Distribution Centers in Bridgewater, Mass. Kayana Szymczak for STATCultivating the ‘miracle berry’Enoch Achigan-Dako was just the type of scientists Seeding Labs had in mind.In the tiny West African country of Benin, Achigan-Dako and his research team are investigating orphan crops, indigenous fruits and vegetables consumed as food or used as medicines for local communities but underutilized and neglected internationally. They hope their work can improve the hunger and malnutrition that afflict the country.Now an associate professor of genetics, horticulture, and seed science at the University of Abomey-Calavi, Achigan-Dako learned to conduct research during his Ph.D. studies in Germany. Back in Benin, he found little infrastructure available to pursue his research.“Either I travel back [to Europe] to continue having the working space available,” he said, “or I stay home and forget about what I have learned, and I continue my life like anyone else. Those were the two options.”He made another choice. With the help of funds from small grants, he and his students built a laboratory from scratch, but there was no money to equip the lab. One of Achigan-Dako’s students told him about Seeding Labs, leading them to apply for the Instrumental Access program for the lab. The equipment arrived last October.Suddenly, Achigan-Dako’s lab became a place for scientists to conduct research. In the LabNew life of lab equipment makes science possible for researchers returning to their home countries Tags Bostonresearchlast_img read more


Third migrant minor dies in a month after being apprehended at US-Mexico border

first_imgPhotos597/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died Monday at a U.S. Border Patrol station outside of McAllen, Texas, a week after he was apprehended for trying to cross illegally, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.The cause of his death was unknown. It marks the third death of a child or teen in the past month after being apprehended at the border.According to the CBP, the child was picked up on May 13 near Hidalgo, Texas and was transferred to the Weslaco Border Patrol Station in the Rio Grande Valley. The teen was awaiting transfer to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an indication that he was traveling without a parent and was among the estimated 13,000 “unaccompanied” minors in government custody.CBP said in a statement released Monday that the teen had been found unresponsive earlier in the day.“The men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are saddened by the tragic loss of this young man and our condolences are with his family,” said acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders. “CBP is committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody.”The U.S. is facing an unprecedented influx of migrant families, including teens and young children, from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. U.S. officials said Friday that they stopped some 4,500 undocumented migrants at the border in the past week, and more than half a million so far this fiscal year.President Donald Trump has claimed via Twitter that he will simply stop allowing refugees inside the U.S., and there is one plan in place to make some refugees wait in Mexico. But that plan, called the “Remain in Mexico” policy has been limited in scope because of legal concerns. Also, U.S. law guarantees people the right to claim asylum and to plead their case to an immigration judge. The courts have also set a 20-day limit on the detention of minors.A 2-year-old died earlier this month shortly after being released from U.S. custody. Before that, on April 30, another 16-year-old died after experiencing flu-like symptoms.Last December, a 7-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy died in separate incidents. Both autopsies showed signs of bacterial infections.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.last_img read more


Work starts on Tibet railway extension

first_imgCHINA: Construction of a 253 km railway from Tibet’s capital Lhasa to its second-largest city Xigaze formally began on September 26, when officials laid a ceremonial foundation stone and watched cultural performances. Construction is expected to take four years at a cost of 13·3bn yuan.The single-track line will pass through difficult terrain including the 90 km Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, requiring 155 km of the route to be on bridges or in tunnel. The alignment is designed for operation at up to 120 km/h, and has been selected to avoid four nature reserves as well as drinking water sources. The railway ‘will play a vital role in boosting tourism in the southwestern part of Tibet and promoting the rational use of resources along the line’, said Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun. It will have the capacity to carry 8·3 million tonnes of freight a year, but projections for passenger traffic have not been announced. The line forms an extension of the railway to Lhasa which opened in July 2006. Another line is being planned from Lhasa to the Nyingchi prefecture, with a view to construction getting underway in 2013.last_img read more


Lifeguard towers brightened by local artists

first_img Share By MARINA WISESpecial to the PRESSThe week before Memorial Day Weekend, eight artists were materializing the vision that they had held for quite some time—to leave an artistic stamp on the beaches of South Padre Island. To achieve this goal, they coated various lifeguard towers along the coast with unique paintings.Jim Pigg, who operates the Beach Rescue program, recruited a core nucleus of talented painters to fulfill the job. Beach Rescue provided all the paint used.“Jim Pigg was looking any artists willing to do this project because he believed it would make a difference as we (the painters) all have believed,” said Christina Salazar, one of the artists involved and owner of Indigo Art & Apparel in Port Isabel. “He opened the door for all of the artists from the area and from a far.”While working on their task, the painters took many of South Padre’s natural elements into account. One beach fundamental, though, held the most importance in the hearts and creativity of the artists.“Our biggest inspiration was the ocean,” Salazar said. “Though we all knew that what we were doing was bigger than all of us.”Want the whole story? Pick up a copy of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here. RelatedIsland firefighter, lifeguard honoredPRESS Staff Report The Rotary Club of Port Isabel surprised one South Padre Island first responder during a meeting of the City Council Wednesday. Capt. Jim Pigg, of the South Padre Island Fire Department, was recognized by the club for his service to the community and his work with the…February 22, 2019In “News”County expands beach patrol, talks park projectBy DINA ARÉVALO Port Isabel-South Padre Press [email protected] Beach safety and park improvements were the topics of two lengthy discussions during a regular meeting of the Cameron County Commissioners Court last Tuesday. Cameron County Beach Patrol Chief Michael Johnson, along with Parks Director Joe Vega, addressed the court with a proposal…July 22, 2016In “News”“We are ready”: SPI outlines spring break preparationsAngie Gamez Special to the PRESS The month of March on South Padre Island doesn’t conjure up thoughts of the start of spring, spring cleaning, or the time to plant annuals. Rather, it’s the anticipation of a flock of spring breakers, endless traffic, patrol cars, sirens, a crowded beach, and…February 21, 2020In “News”last_img read more


Narine leads Wellman Masters to title

first_imgRamesh Narine spurred Mike’s Wellman to the Masters’ Over-40 title while Grill Masters beat Regal All-Stars to take the Open title in the annual Republic Cup last Sunday at the Everest Cricket Club ground. In the championship match, Narine stroked 52 (3×6; 5×4) to setup Wellman Masters’ five-wicket victory with three balls to spare in fading light.Set 164 to win from their 20 overs, the champions got useful knocks from skipper Wayne Jones and opener Ian Ramdeen who both weighed in with 28 runs each while Greg De Franca and Nandram Samlall got them over the rope.Laurie Singh gave Fed-Up Masters an excellent start with the ball, sending back openers Ramdeen and Eon Lovell (01) very early. However, Narine and Jones consolidated and almost to put the run chase to bed before disaster struck. The dismissals of the two left-handers and Lloyd Ruplall (05) brought the opposition back into the game.With 24 needed from 12 balls and five wickets in hand, Nandram and De Franca swung for the fences and cashed in on the small outfield. De Franca finished with 12 (2×4) from four balls and Samlall 21 (3×4).Singh finished with 3 for 36. Earlier, after being sent in; Fed-Up Master’s total of 163/7 was built around 57 from captain Mohamed Rafeek and 47 from Troy Lewis.Man of the Match, Narine claimed 1-32 (4), Latchman Kallicharran 2-19 (4) and Imtiaz Mohamed 2-36 (4).On their way to the final, Fed-Up Masters (158-6) beat Fishermen Masters (104 all out) by 54 runs while Mike’s Wellman (179/3) beat Regal Masters (139/9) by 40 runs. Narine blasted an unbeaten 83 from 37 balls (10×6; 2×4) and picked up 4 for 26 with the ball to crown a good day at the office. In the All-Star final, Richard Latif stole the show to hand Grill Masters an easy 17-run victory over the star-studded Regal All Stars.Grill Masters lost Balram Samaroo, caught behind off Suraj Boodhoo without scoring at 8-1.Latif then joined opener Chien Gittens and the pair took the score to 124-2 in the 15th over when Gittens lost his leg stump  to a fired up Shilendra Ramnauth for 48 (6×4; 1×6). Latif and David Lucknauth added 65 runs from 33 balls for the third wicket. Lucknauth finished on 20 from 10 balls while Latif who brought up his 100 in the 19th over was undone off the final ball of the innings for 103. In all, he faced 63 balls and hit seven fours and five sixes as the Grill Masters finished on a commanding 189 for 3 from their 20 overs. Boodhoo (1-17), Sachin Singh (1-20) and Ramnauth (1-22) finished with one wicket each.In reply, Regal All-Stars were off to a positive start with Sachin Singh (23) and Patrick Rooplall (11) putting on 29 for the first wicket from 3.1 overs. However, after they were dismissed within the space of three overs. the rest of the batting fell away except for Sewchand Budhu who made 22.Bowling for Grill Masters Chandrashekal Arjune claimed 3 for 33, Gittens 2 for 16 and Latif 2-25. The annual tournament was organized by the Georgetown Softball Cricket League Inc (GSCL) and was sponsored by Regal Stationery and Computer Centre and Regal Sport of Seaforth Street Campbellville. This year’s tournament was used as valuable practice ahead of the Florida Cup which is scheduled for April 12 to 14 in Fort Lauderdale, USA.last_img read more