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Major American and Mexican Universities Join the Carlos Slim Health Institute to Kick-Off a Partnership to Develop Vaccines against Neglected Diseases

WASHINGTON  - The George Washington University, Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Autonomous University of Yucatan, and the Carlos Slim Health Institute are launching a major effort to develop a new generation of vaccines to combat various neglected diseases in Latin America. The first technical advisory meeting of the Slim Initiative for Antipoverty Vaccine Development took place in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico on January 25-26, 2011.  

The initial vaccines proposed for development and testing will address Chagas Disease and Leishmaniasis, which are two diseases that most significantly affect the Meso-American region.

 “This is a unique opportunity that will enhance and strengthen the talent and infrastructure to develop vaccines that could potentially prevent millions of people from experiencing illness that leads to and perpetuates extreme poverty,” said Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., Distinguished Research Professor, Walter G. Ross Professor and Chair, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine, The George Washington University and President of Sabin Vaccine Institute. “It is a great honor to be a part of this new partnership as it will have a major impact and will provide better health to those in Latin America who are suffering.” 

This biotechnology consortium led by GW’s Dr. Peter J. Hotez and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, from the department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine in the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences will employ a scientific-based milestone approach for the selection, evaluation and production of suitable vaccine candidates and shepherd them through the development path. 

Key alliances in Mexico include the Regional Research Center “Dr. Hideyo Noguchi” of the Autonomous University of Yucatan, the Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional (CINVESTAV) and the Biologics and Reagents Laboratories of Mexico (BIRMEX). Other highly recognized U.S. research institutions will also participate. 

The Autonomous University of Yucatan (UADY) is a comprehensive public institution imparting knowledge with an integral approach to individuals from all areas of society. It contributes to the sustainable development of society within a framework of scientific knowledge, universal values and the preservation of local, regional and national culture and identity. UADY is considered one of the 10 best public universities in Mexico. UADY offers 43 undergraduate programs and 53 graduate programs supported by 1,650 faculty members of which 768 are full-time and of those, 89% have graduate studies experience. It has 21,000 students, of which 7,000 are high school, 12,500 undergraduate and 1,500 graduate students.

Dr. Alfredo Dajer Abimerhi, Dean of UADY, mentions that “UADY´s international approach seeks strategic partners such as the George Washington University in order to strengthen academic and research programs, exchange cultural activities, and offer students high quality programs which will provide them with the knowledge and tools to compete in an ever more global world. The Regional Research Center “Dr. Hideyo Noguchi” is a key unit within UADY’s research structure.”

For the Carlos Slim Health Institute, the participation in and funding of initiatives of this sort is basic to its mission of contributing to solutions of major public health problems in Latin America and the Caribbean in innovative and humanitarian ways and with a clear concern for the neediest populations. This initiative is an alliance with strategic partners in order to share economic and scientific risks in the development of social patents and for the public good and  the benefit of the wider population. 

“Through this partnership, our goal is to strengthen the capacity to translate scientific research into the development, manufacture and future distribution of biologics against neglected diseases through technology transfer to public institutions, such as CINVESTAV and BIRMEX”, said Dr. Roberto Tapia-Conyer, Executive Director of the Carlos Slim Health Institute. This type of partnership will allow for the future production of vaccines on a large scale to benefit impoverished communities throughout Mexico and Latin America.