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Innovation Fellow aims to develop diagnostic tests to identify monkey malaria infections in humans

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s (LSHTM) Dr Kevin Tetteh has been appointed one of three new Innovation Fellows to undertake studies aimed at producing novel diagnostic tools for infectious diseases. 

The Fellowship appointments are sponsored by the Bloomsbury SET, a £5m research programme funded by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund, which is designed to deliver on the objectives of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The Bloomsbury SET adopts a One Health approach to the development of new vaccines, diagnostic tools and mathematical models to combat infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance.

Fellows are encouraged to turn scientific research into practical tools with real world applications. Bloomsbury SET supports these early career researchers through both tailored guidance and grant funding, with the hope that their work can be used to develop tangible improvements to the welfare of humans and animals.

In total Dr Tetteh will receive £334,943 over two years to work on the simian malaria parasite, Plasmodium knowlesi. Originally infecting macaque monkeys, P. knowlesi is a zoonotic infection that has recently become the main cause of human malaria in Malaysian Borneo.

The main aim of Dr Tetteh’s project is to develop a diagnostic test to help identify infections caused by P. knowlesi. Results from this type of diagnostic test could one day lead to the development of maps highlighting areas where there is a risk of P. knowlesi, and areas free from the infection.

This approach could be used as a blueprint to help guide strategies for the design of novel diagnostic and surveillance tools for other neglected causes of parasitic infections, such as malaria caused by Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium ovale.

However it could also help non-malaria diseases, including trichomoniasis a common sexually transmitted parasite infection affecting over 156 million people each year.

On receiving the award Dr Tetteh said: “It is wonderful to be appointed as an Innovation Fellow. The Bloomsbury SET Fellowship will help expand my research portfolio, enabling it to address unmet health care needs.

“One of my goals is to develop a spinout company, and I have been provided with excellent advice and commercial support to help achieve this.”

Along with LSHTM, Bloomsbury SET is made up of the Royal Veterinary College, the London School of Economics, the London International Development Centre, and SOAS University of London.

This new announcement means the Bloomsbury SET has distributed approximately £1.8m in grant funding since April 2018, over six projects.