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Academics unplugged: tackling infections to benefit Africa

ByAlice Wiersma

Feb 1, 2018

From the name, the aims of Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa (TIBA) seem quite straightforward: the organisation wants to stop the spreading of disease in Africa. At least that’s what I thought when I decided to attend the Academics Unplugged event on 25 January 2018.

However, I soon learned that TIBA’s plans stretch far beyond this inconspicuous title and relatively common aim.

TIBA wants Africans and African nations to be self-subsistent and able to work and thrive by learning from each other.

The organisation is a partnership that aims to help nations do research, develop new treatments, run clinical trials, and distribute cures in a sustainable way within the countries where these treatments will ultimately be used.

TIBA stresses the necessity of offering their African partners the capacity to solve these problems themselves.

Professor Francisca Mutapi from the Institute of Immunology & Infection Research at the University of Edinburgh is Deputy Director of TIBA and presented this edition of Academics Unplugged.

I had not heard of TIBA before attending, and I was blown away by the scale of the organisation.

Through partnerships between the University of Edinburgh and universities and research institutes from nine African countries – Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe – TIBA aims to target largely under-researched tropical diseases.

The organisation leads 49 projects, ranging from malaria treatment to investigating the relationship between autoimmune diseases and allergies post-treatment.

TIBA encourages cooperation between peoples and nations. Diseases know no borders – they affect everyone, everywhere, indiscriminately.

By working together and building on the work of others, all parties benefit.

This has been achieved through high-level contacts in other organisations, such as the African Academy of Science and the ministries of health.

The research that is being done can have direct impacts on healthcare policies and will ensure that health systems can provide quality care that can withstand any strain caused by epidemics.

My overall experience of Academics Unplugged was very positive. Professor Mutapi was a great speaker and obviously passionate about the topic, something I knew very little about.

I would highly encourage all those interested in finding out more about research and projects happening right now in the labs and rooms adjacent to where you’re studying and to go and check out future events from Academics Unplugged.

Image credit: Julien Harnels via Flikr

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