A number of scientific partners of the IRD (French Institute of Research for Development) in France and southern countries are leading the way in the fight against the pandemic through concerted research activities in the field and support of public decision making. This article presents the profiles of a few leading figures among our partners, drawn up with the IRD's representations.

New profiles will be added throughout the summer. 

Brazil

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Christovam Barcellos is a geographer and public health specialist and holds a doctorate in geoscience. As a senior researcher at the Health information and communication institute (ICICT) of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Rio de Janeiro and professor at Sergio Arouça National School of Public Health (ENSP/Fiocruz), he mainly conducts studies on the relationship between the environment and health conditions using geomatic tools. As an IRD partner, he co-manages the International Joint Laboratory "Sentinela". Founder of the Brazilian Climate and Health Observatory, he is particularly engaged in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil by monitoring the epidemic, studying its evolution and its regional specificities. In this respect, he coordinates the development of the data and knowledge broadcasting platform "MonitoraCovid19". Indeed, the various ways in which Covid-19 spreads are generated by the diversity of geographic areas (favelas, Amazon, border areas and indigenous territories), their interactions across various time and spatial scales and the environmental, cultural, economic and political contexts within which they operate.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Steve Ahuka Mundeke is the Head of the Virology Department at the National Biomedical Research Laboratory (INRB), professor and hospital practitioner, doctor of medicine and a specialist in Microbiology at the University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He holds a master’s degree in tropical medicine from the University of Nagasaki and a doctorate from the University of Montpellier, France. His fields of research and interest include the molecular epidemiology of HIV and HTLV 2 in RDCDRC; the genetics of HIV and its consequences in treatment (resistance to ARV) and in diagnosis; and monitoring the emergence of viruses at the man-primate interface (zoonoses). Member of the mixed international laboratory "Prevention and treatment of emerging infectious diseases” (LMI PréVIHMI), coordinated by IRD. This scientific platform studies the Ebola epidemic and other viral epidemics. It enabled new proven cases of infection from the Ebola virus to be diagnosed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With regard to the fight against Covid-19, Steve Ahuka Mundeke is representing his country in the ARIACOV project.

Ivory Coast

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Full professor of microbiology at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the Université Félix Houphouët Boigny of Abidjan, Mireille Dosso  is the Director of the Institut Pasteur de Côte d'Ivoire (IPCI) and Head of Department at the University Hospital (CHU) of Yopougon. The Institut Pasteur de Côte d'Ivoire is at the forefront of the combat against the Covid-19 epidemic and carries out all analyses of the 500 to 600 nasopharyngeal swabs taken daily in the country. The long-standing cooperation that IRD researchers have maintained with the Institut Pasteur will once again be exemplified during a study focusing on the assumption of cross-immunity between SARS-COV-2 and other types of coronavirus found in humans (collaboration between IPCI, UMR UMMISCO and TransVIHMI). This study, which also receives the support of the French embassy, will start at the end of June and the first findings should be available at the end of July.

Ecuador

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Angel Guevara is a professor at the Central University of Ecuador (UCE) and President of the Academy of Sciences of Ecuador, two partner institutions of the IRD in Ecuador. He conducts a range of diagnostic, treatment and prevention projects for various diseases in Ecuador. His research is focussed on diseases that are a public health concern and affect the most vulnerable people in the country, such as indigenous or Afro-Ecuadorian communities. Among other projects, he has participated in a programme which enabled the eradication of onchocerciasis in Ecuador. Angel Guevara is primarily focused on managing the COVID-19 crisis. His laboratory activity has been transformed since the beginning of the epidemic, in particular to address the shortage of coronavirus testing centres. Together with his colleagues from the UCE's Institute for Research in Biomedicine, they perform molecular tests (RT-PCR) on Quito's population to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Angel Guevara is also leading a short-term project in collaboration with foreign and domestic universities to develop an immunologic test that is easily accessible for the Ecuadorian public to detect whether the body develops antibodies (IgC) against SARS-CoV-2.

Ghana

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Gordon Awandare is an infectious disease expert and professor of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology at the University of Ghana. His research is primarily focused on red blood cell invasion mechanisms by Plasmodium falciparum parasites and on understanding the pathogenesis of paediatric malaria. He also studies the genomic variation of P. falciparum isolates in areas of transmission. Professor Awandare is the founder and Director of the African Centre of Excellence (ACE) West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), which conducts research on various tropical diseases. He and his team have played a significant role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana in collaboration with researchers from their partner institution, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research. Their work includes supporting diagnostic efforts and research involving sequencing the SRAS-CoV-2 virus and surveys on immune response to the disease using serological studies. These studies contribute to the surveillance of virus evolution in Ghana and the West Africa sub-region in order to provide expert advice to decision-makers. This activity is also supported as part of the PSF-BIODIG programme, funded by the IRD. In addition, the team collaborates with the IRD on the ARIACOV project, funded by the AFD (French Development Agency), which aims to assess levels of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and the dynamics of these infections in Central and Western Africa. Professor Awandare also manages a new network of partnerships between ACEs funded by the IRD, which will facilitate South-South interactions as well as interactions between English- and French-speaking countries for research on infectious diseases and the training of young scientists.

Laos

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Phimpha Paboriboune is a doctor and scientific director at the Centre of Infectiology Lao Christophe Mérieux (CILM). She has many years of experience in blood sample and analyses management, in particular the viral load for hepatitis, drug resistance genotyping and early HIV diagnosis for all the antiretroviral therapy centres in the country. Every year, she organises national workshops on HIV and hepatitis infection for clinicians and nurses. She is also a team leader for the European project COCLICAN. In partnership with IRD, Dr Paboriboune co-pilots the Lacoviss project, funded by the ANRS as part of the COVID-19 call for proposals. This is a SARS-CoV-2 epidemiological study in Laos with a One-Health approach. Contrary to what might be expected, Laos is relatively free of the disease. This study will help track the evolution of the epidemic and better understand models concerned with the spread of the virus in the country.

Reunion Island

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Patrick Mavingui is a microbiologist, research director at the CNRS (French national scientific research centre) and Director of the PIMIT (Unit for Infectious Processes in Tropical Island Environments) based in Reunion Island. As a specialist in host-pathogen interactions in the emergence of infectious diseases in tropical environments, he is very involved in Covid-19 diagnosis as part of a task force grouping together the University Hospital, CIRAD (Agricultural Research for Development), CNRS, INSERM (French Institute of Medical Research) and Reunion University. His current research focuses on the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Reunion Island and the Indian Ocean. He also develops epidemiological control strategies (research into antiviral molecules in plants) using local and Malagasy biodiversity. Finally, he is working on developing a technique that uses lipid nanoparticles to treat inflammation and inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 virus directly from the lungs. All research is carried out at the CYROI (Cyclotron Réunion Océan Indien) on the technical platform Platin-OI, which complies with legal and technical requirements for the handling of Hazard Group 3 viral pathogens, which are dangerous for the environment or public health.

Madagascar

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Dr Randremanana Rindra Vatosoa is a physician-epidemiologist and Head of the Epidemiological and Clinical Research Unit at the  Institut Pasteur de Madagascar (IPM). She has clinical research experience and has contributed to the design, completion and evaluation of several studies carried out in Madagascar, as well as multi-centre studies with other African countries (included in the Institut Pasteur Network). Her research areas are focused on public health priorities in resource-poor countries like Madagascar, including diarrhoeal diseases (MADIHO projects, Campylobacter cohort), tuberculosis (TB-KIDS project) and plague and child malnutrition (AFRIBIOTA, MALINEA, national survey on levels of iodine in the Malagasy population). In the context of COVID 19, she is involved in two research projects in collaboration with several IPM units (virology, immunology of infectious diseases, clinical biology centre) and the clinicians of University Hospitals caring for COVID 19 patients in Antananarivo. These projects relate to the first COVID-19 infections and their intra-domiciliary contacts, as well as COVID-19 infection risk factors among health professionals.

Mali

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Professor Ousmane Koita is Director of the Laboratory of Applied Molecular Biology (LBMA), Faculty of Technical Sciences at the University of Science and Technology of Bamako (USTTB). He is also a member of the IRD's COVID-19 Interdisciplinary and partnership-based scientific committee. The LBMA is one of the 4 SARS-CoV-2 testing centres in Mali. Professor Koita's research on the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in Mali includes a randomised clinical trial of phytotherapeutic formulations on viral clearance in vivo, a study on its genetic diversity in Mali through genome sequencing and a study of virus exposure using serological analyses.

Marocco

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Saïd Boujrouf is a Professor of Geography, Director of the Laboratory for the study of resources, mobility and attractiveness (LERMA) at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech and Co-director of the International Joint Laboratory MediTer (IRD) since 2016. He is interested in territorial development and land use planning issues in Morocco and works on matters relating to local product specification and qualification, tourist heritage preservation and enhancement around the margin of Southern Morocco. The National Centre for Scientific and Technical Research (CNRST) in Morocco has selected the following project for funding as part of its "COVID-19" call for proposals: "Challenges of tourist mobility within the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Diagnostic and future perspectives for the Marrakech-Safi Region "TOUR-BLA-COVID"" ("Enjeux et défis des mobilités touristiques dans un contexte de Pandémie Covid-19, Diagnostic et perspectives d’avenir pour la Région de Marrakech-Safi") led by his LERMA team in collaboration with the IRD, CESSMA (Centre for social studies on African, American and Asian worlds) at Paris Diderot University, the Regional Delegation of the Marrakech-Safi Region Tourism Department, Marrakech-Safi Regional Inspectorate of Land Use and Urban Planning  and Marrakech-Safi Regional Tourism CouncilThis project aims to further understanding of tourism issues and the economic and social challenges that COVID-19 raises for all its stakeholders in order to optimise a rapid return to viability and profitability as soon as circumstances permit.

Mexico

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Gerardo Suzan is a Professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)  and co-manages the International Joint Laboratory (LMI) ELDORADO. His studies have allowed over 30 coronaviruses to be identified in bats and rodents in central and southern Mexico. He and his team have also characterised the phylogenetic diversity of coronaviruses, their evolutionary and co-evolutionary trends, as well as the various lineages existing in the country. These studies have enabled a better understanding of the influence of the environment on the presence and prevalence of coronavirus among various bat species. Within LMI Eldorado, Gerardo Suzan studies the phylogenetic diversity of coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 in domestic animal populations (cats, dogs, chickens, pigs and ferrets), peridomestic animals (bats and mice) and in human populations who interact around rural and urban environments in Quintana Roo, Yucatán and Campeche. As a result, researchers will  be able to identify SARS-CoV-2 distribution patterns, reservoir species and those species likely to transmit the virus to humans. In parallel, researchers at LMI ELDORADO are conducting a project to identify the potential risk of SARS-VOC-2 transmission from man to neotropical primates.

Senegal

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Adama Faye is a full professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacy and Dentistry at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar. He is a medical doctor specialising in public health and a doctor of epidemiology. He is the Director of the Health and Development Institute and Head of the Public Health and Research Support Department. His research addresses measuring and improving the quality of services at a healthcare system level. He is involved in the fight against Covid-19. He is a member of the Research and Ethical Issues Commission at the Senegal National Epidemic Management Committee. He led a team of almost 30 students working to support the Dakar medical region in managing data and investigating cases for three months. ISED is collaborating with IRD on the ARIACOV project, financed by AFD, which aims to assess the knowledge and attitudes of populations. This phase involves implementing schemes for gathering data, potentially combined with qualitative surveys for monitoring progress in the knowledge and behaviours of populations. It enables information to be provided to governments in real time so that the preventive measures in place in response to the epidemic can be adapted.

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Fatoumata Hane is a socio-anthropologist and specialises in health anthropology. She is a university lecturer and research professor in the sociology department of Assane Seck University in Ziguinchor, and her research deals mainly with AIDS health policies and health governance. She has carried out a range of work on health systems and politics in Africa through the example of chronic illnesses such as tuberculosis and HIV. Fatoumata Hane has also carried out a range of research into community health, care functions and professional reconfigurations in healthcare and into the place of children in paediatric treatment schemes. She is a member of a GDRI on ageing in Africa and has carried out various research into ageing in Senegal in a context of migration. She is a member of the WHO COVID Platform Operational Research Group for West and Central Africa in her capacity as a representative of the COVID-IRD scientific committee. She is a member of the research team and responsible for the community staff aspect of the “Community mobilisations and social health issues posed by COVID-19 (Burkina Faso, Senegal) ANRS COV26” project. She is the author and joint author of numerous publications, the most recent of which address COVID. She is a member of various expert social science committees and of the editorial committee for the “Santé Publique” journal.

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Dr Khoudia Sow is a researcher at the Regional research and training centre for managing HIV and associated diseases at Fann Hospital in Dakar (CRCF). As a medical anthropologist and member of the IRD's TransVIHMI (HIV research unit), she has been conducting research work in health anthropology in Sub-Saharan Africa for 22 years, in particular on the analysis of socio-cultural and public health responses to AIDS and the Ebola epidemic in Senegal and Africa. She was a member of the Sectoral scientific committee of the national agency for the control of AIDS and viral hepatitis in France "Research in Developing Countries" (Recherches dans les Pays en développement). Since 2019, she has been collaborating on various sources of international research to support the contribution of social sciences in the fight against emerging epidemics and the analysis of regional epidemic preparedness schemes in Africa, including the Project Sonar Global (H2020) and Pandemic Preparedness Project (Institute for development studies, CRF-IRD team). In the context of the Covid epidemic and in partnership with IRD, she helps interventions supporting care for people who are self-isolating, coordinates the CORAFMOB ANRSCOV26 research project (Community mobilisations, social and healthcare issues in the face of COVID-19, Burkina Faso, Senegal) and is a researcher for the CORAFSEN project (ARIACOV programme). These projects analyse the experience, media coverage, response mechanism and community mobilisation in Senegal in comparison to other countries, with teams from the Network for the Anthropology of Emerging Epidemics.

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Coumba Touré Kane is a Doctor of Pharmacy and full professor in microbiology, bacteriology and virology at the Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacy and Dentistry at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal. Since 2019, she has been the Principal Advisor in charge of partnerships, research and innovation within the Ministry of Research and Innovation for Higher Education in Senegal. As scientific director and manager of the molecular biology platform at the Institute of Health Research, Epidemiological Surveillance and Training (IRESSEF), she has helped to implement alternative tools for virological surveillance and HIV molecular epidemiology documentation in several African countries. She was Principal Advisor to the ESRI (Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation) during the Covid period and contributed to the establishment of "research" working groups. These groups have enabled the aggregation of both Senegalese and foreign workers present in the field to reflect on action research projects with an interdisciplinary vision in order to support the Senegalese government in its actions against Covid. She was recently named Chief Education Officer for the Université du Sine-Saloum El Hadji Ibrahima Niass (USSEIN).

Thailand

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Anamika Kritiyakan is a young teacher and researcher in microbiology and immunology at the Faculty of Veterinary Technology at Kasetsart University in Thailand. After completing her thesis over a three-year period in Montpellier under the supervision of Dr Bernard Carcy at the MIVEGEC / IRD unit, she joined the FutureHealthSEA project led by Dr Serge Morand. Within this international team, she is interested in the links between land use, climate change and the emergence of new infectious diseases, in particular among rodents in South-East Asia. Her research is closely related to the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic as wild animals may have played a key role in virus transmission. In addition, Anamika is an integral part of the DisCoVer project by Dr Meriadeg Le Gouil, which is seeking to determine the origins of the Sars-Cov2 coronavirus and understand how it was able to circulate and become so dangerous for humans. The team, composed of several IRD researchers, studies reservoirs of coronavirus-carrying bats in Asia. Anamika is responsible for the ethical treatment of the animals studied, sample management and collection sites in natural environments and livestock farms.

 

Woottichai Khamduang

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Woottichai Khamduang is a microbiologist and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Associated Medical Sciences of Chiang Mai University (CMU).  He received double PhD degrees from CMU and University of Tours with the support of the ARTS Grants programme from IRD from  2008 to 2011. He has a strong background in molecular virology and has conducted clinical research with IRD PHPT unit over the past decades to understand the risk of perinatal transmission of HIV and other viral co-infections. More recently, he has been involved in clinical studies to prevent perinatal transmission of hepatitis B virus in Thailand and Lao PDR (iTAP studies) and to evaluate new methods to increase the uptake of testing and counseling services for sexual transmitted infections in the Thai public health system (Napneung project). He is also developing diagnostics tools such as point-of-care testing, affordable and adapted to low and middle-income settings. During the coronavirus crisis, he and his team (PHPT unit) set up testing services for COVID-19 in Chiang Mai and Lamphun provinces. Appointments are made through smartphone or internet and individuals have their nasopharyngeal samples collected at drive-thru or mobile units in safe conditions. Test results are provided via smartphone within 24 hours. Currently, over 1,300 people have been tested under this service and the system is now being transferred to another province of Thailand where SARS-CoV-2 testing is not available yet.

Tunisia

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Leila Baghdadi is a lecturer in economics at the ESSECT at the University of Tunis, where she holds the World Trade Organisation Chair. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Tunisia since August 2019 and of the Economic Analysis Board since November 2017. Leila Baghdadi serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Tunisian Institute of Competitiveness and Quantitative Studies. She also serves on the Advisory Committee of the Economic Research Forum, the Associate Committee on the Euro-Mediterranean Network for Economic Studies and is Associate Editor for the Middle East Development Journal. As lockdown restrictions are being lifted, Leila Baghdadi is extremely engaged in the development of applied economic research in Tunisia, which takes into account the various economic and social challenges. Together with Mohamed-Ali Marouani, an IRD representative in Tunisia and member of the UMR Development and Societies ("Développement et Sociétés"), she manages a research project funded by the ANRS which reports on the vulnerability of corporations in developing countries in the grip of COVID-19. The aim of their work is to offer effective tools to help decision-making in order to target aid towards those businesses which are most affected and those with the greatest impact on the economy.

Vietnam

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Dr Pham Quang Thai is a member of the National Steering Committee for the control of the COVID-19 epidemic in Vietnam. With 20 years' experience in the field of infectious diseases at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE) in Hanoi, Dr Thai contributes to the management of laboratory test results to coordinate contact tracing, provides up-to-date information from national and international scientific research to advise about the response to the epidemic and contributes to public health education, both through university education (training of health professionals) and the supply of reliable information to the media. As former director of JEAI EID (IRD Young Teams - Epidemiology Intelligence Decision), he is helping with the COMOKIT project, linking the IRD and EDF, and funded by the ANRS. This project aims to create a tool for public health decision-making support using agent-based modelling, taking into account the heterogeneity of the population and individual characteristics (age, occupation, etc.), at various regional levels. 

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Professor Nguyen Ngoc Doanh is a Professor at the University of Thuyloi and specialises in mathematical and computer modelling of complex systems. As a member of the rapid response unit at the Ministry of Science and Technology working against the COVID-19 epidemic, he has worked primarily on the control of the epidemic at Ho Chi Minh City (assessment of epidemic peak, effect of various control measures) and on the prediction of new cases at various levels (from city to country). As current Director of the JEAI WARM (IRD Young Teams - Water and Disaster Management), he is helping with the COMOKIT project.

Zimbabwe

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Prof. Davies M. Pfukenyi is the Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Zimbabwe, in southern Africa. He and his colleagues from the faculty are long-term partners of IRD regarding animal and zoonotic diseases. The scientists currently study the genetic characteristics of different coronaviruses found in Zimbabwean bats. As the local population frequently visits the bat colonies’ habitats to collect guano for its crops, the coronaviruses the bats carry could easily be transmitted to humans and cause diseases similar to Covid-19. Prof. Pfukenyi coordinates the multiple joint IRD-CIRAD-UZ projects on zoonotic diseases, such as CAZCOM, and supervises students working on these topics.