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ESF Conferences to cooperate with Africa

Pushing the frontiers of infectious disease research: from basic to translational science

The European Science Foundation (ESF), the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC), together with the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society, The British Academy, the Académie des Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, are joining forces for an unprecedented series of research conferences to promote excellence and research collaboration between Europe and Africa in basic science.

The Europe-Africa Frontier Research Conference Series will focus on basic sciences, thus promoting research and cooperation in a field that often finds it hard to attract adequate attention - and funding. It is exactly this focus on basic sciences that makes the series unique, says John Marks, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Science and Strategy at ESF: "most conferences involving African scientists address more immediately applicable science. Yet progress in Africa depends on its position in basic science as well."

Each conference will focus on a jointly selected topic that is of key significance to the present and future development in Africa, Europe and beyond. The series will highlight the excellence of European and African research in the field and foster collaboration between scientists.

Each conference will be co-chaired by two highly renowned scientists - one from Africa and one from Europe. The conference location will alternate between the two continents. "Bringing together European and African scientists is mutually beneficial both in terms of advancing the science and ensuring that it addresses the real issues that are affecting people's everyday lives," says Carthage Smith, ICSU's Deputy Executive Director.

ESF and its partners expect this new series to further knowledge exchange and create new synergies, such as intercontinental research projects and joint funding applications. "The most important outcome is to sow the seeds for long-term research collaborations between African and European scientists that eventually lead to applications that are beneficial to citizens on both continents," says Smith.

The first conference: Focusing on neglected diseases

The first conference will take place in South Africa in spring 2009 and cover topics surrounding infectious diseases. The event will concentrate on studying the basic mechanisms - cellular, molecular and genetic - which underlie infectious diseases and explore how understanding these mechanisms can be applied to drug development and other intervention strategies.

Amongst others, tuberculosis, malaria, the 'neglected tropical diseases' Buruli ulcer, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis and filariasis, along with West Nile, Rift Valley and chikungunya viruses will be discussed. Despite public attention now extensively focusing on other health issues such as HIV AIDS, these diseases still remain a key concern, not only limited to the African continent: "The world is now a "global village" and almost every issue that concerns Africa, concerns or affects the developed world, and vice versa. For this reason, even infectious diseases have direct impact on Europe, Africa and the rest of the world," says Jackie Olang, NASAC programme officer, on behalf of the NASAC secretariat.

The conference will be co-chaired by Prof. Dr. Monique Capron, Inserm, Lille University, Institut Pasteur de Lille, France, and Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Parker, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Cape Town University, South Africa.

Scientists from academia and industry worldwide will be invited to apply through the ESF website ( Selection will be based on academic merit, but the organisers will strive to create a balance between African and European participants, with a special focus on young researchers. There is a possibility to apply for travel and conference grants.

For the photo of the two chairs:

Thomas Lau | alfa
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