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Bill Gates at the Hebrew University

Grant to advance Treatment of Deadly Visceral Leishmaniasis Disease spread by Sand Flies which infects 500,000 Annually

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Kuvin Center for the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases has received a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for research into visceral leishmaniasis.  The project will be led by Professor Alon Warburg, a vector biologist at the Hebrew University's Faculty of Medicine, and will include experts from Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and Environment.
            The announcement of the grant comes one year after Bill Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft Corp. and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was honored by American Friends of The Hebrew University (AFHU) and The Hebrew University with the inaugural Einstein Award at a December 2 gala in New York.  Speaking about the role of philanthropy in improving the human condition that evening, Mr. Gates remarked that in addition to government and business, “The final piece of the puzzle is research institutions like Hebrew University.  They do the pure research that leads to innovations that, in turn, make a huge difference in people’s lives.” 
            “The close alignment of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’ s  and Hebrew University’s focus on improving the lives of people in ‘at risk’ geographies was important to our decision to honor Bill Gates with the first Einstein Award,” said Martin E. Karlinsky, president of American Friends of The Hebrew University and a prominent New York attorney.  “We are honored and thrilled that they have chosen to partner with us to fight this terrible disease.”
            The project, entitled “Studies on the ecology and transmission dynamics of visceral leishmaniasis in Ethiopia,” will seek to determine the drivers of transmission of the disease, which is also known as Kala-Azar.  Sand flies contract the disease by ingesting the blood of an infected host and transmit it during subsequent blood meals.  By studying the larval breeding habits of the sand flies and the genotypes and drug sensitivities of the leishmania parasites, the project aims to devise effective methods to control the disease.
            An estimated 500,000 cases occur annually.  The worst affected region in Africa is southern Sudan and northwest Ethiopia.  Treatment of the disease involves a 30-day injection cycle but is frequently hindered by a high correlation of patients who are also infected with HIV/AIDS.  Left untreated, leishmaniasis has a 95 percent fatality rate.
            In addition to the experts from Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine and Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, Prof. Warburg will be coordinating the collaboration of researchers from Addis Ababa University , Charles University in Prague , the Volcani Center and the Gertner Institute for Trauma and Emergency Medicine Research.
            For more information and to support this and other projects at The Hebrew University working to alleviate the suffering of our world’s most unfortunate, please visit or call AFHU at 212.607.8500.

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