International partnership brings fresh faces

June 29, 2010

From the Summer 2010 issue of the MassBio News


There will be four new faces at the Novartis labs in Cambridge this summer, as part of an international partnership with the non-profit Seeding Labs and Kenyatta University.

Drs. Sauda Swaleh, Hudson Nyambaka, Nicholas Gikonyo and Evans Changamu Ogwagwa, from the university’s pharmacy and chemistry departments, will spend 10 weeks shadowing Novartis scientists, discussing issues like intellectual property and networking with their American counterparts.

The partnership grew out of discussions on how Novartis might help Seeding Labs fulfill their mission to help scientists in the developing world gain access to lab equipment and other career resources. In March, Seeding Labs was able to donate lab equipment to Kenyatta University, said Dr. Nina Dudnik, the group’s founder and CEO.

“Sending equipment is only the first step,” Dudnik said. “Our greater goal is to connect scientists in the developing world with their counterparts here in the U.S. Scientists in much of the world are isolated from their colleagues, and from the latest developments in techniques and tools. With new equipment scientists in the developing world are in a position to become collaborators and partners for scientists here and they bring a unique perspective and set of scientific questions. Connecting scientists gives everyone a chance to learn from each other and improve science worldwide.”

Brigitta Tadmor, VP and Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion and Health Policy at Novartis said their discussions soon centered on the possibility of bringing Kenyan researchers to Cambridge to shadow scientists and learn more about using the equipment they were given.

Tadmor said the company’s interest in a partnership centered on the opportunity to provide diverse experiences for their employees and to be a truly international organization.

“We realize if you want to help patients, if we want to go into the developing worlds, not just countries with emerging markets like China, we firmly believe that one way of succeeding is by setting up scientific collaborations and building scientific capabilities in these countries so that when we develop medicine to cure world diseases there is more of a clinical or scientific infrastructure set up to work with to get medicines to people, clinics and communities,” she said.

Dr. Hudson Nyambaka said the partnership is a godsend for his research on nutrients and the use of food formulations in the management of HIV and AIDS.Dr. Nyambaka

For Dr. Evans Changamu Ogwagwa, from the chemistry department at Kenyatta University, the partnership is an opportunity to get experience he’s been missing.

“I have always been fascinated with metals in biological systems but never really had an opportunity to try my hand. I have desired to connect with a lab involved in applied science and so when this opportunity came I grabbed it with both hands and I cannot wait to arrive,” said Dr. Ogwagwa, who has been researching the synthesis and characterization of amine complexes.

Dr. Ogawagwa said he hopes to learn the principles of drug design and development, but also to connect with scientists at Novartis and in other Massachusetts companies.

“We in the developing world have a wealth of ideas but the cost of doing research in terms to equipment and consumables ensures that we never try even the noblest of them,” he said. “International research partnerships are key to utilizing resources available from anywhere in the globe, whether material or human.”

Tadmor echoed Ogawagwa’s sentiments and the company is looking forward to a busy summer.

“When you partner with another organization you can do so many things in a short amount of time. With these relatively little resources you can actually create fantastic things that in my opinion will have a big impact.”

As a capstone to the Fellows Program, Seeding Labs will host an August 12th symposium to celebrate the work of the visiting fellows. The four scientists will reflect on the experience of research in Africa, what they've learned in Boston, and what new research and teaching they will pursue upon their return. The event will include a reception and networking and MassBio members are welcome. Stay tuned to the events calendar on for more information.

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