The funding brought me closer to scientists in Mexico and also to people that were interested in supporting the vaccine development.
Professor Arturo Reyes-Sandoval
Newton Fund Institutional Links
To find a vaccine against dengue fever, with the support of a group of researchers and several partner universities funded by the Newton Fund and the British Council.
Estimates indicate that 390 million people are infected with dengue fever every year, with Mexico accounting for 6.3 per cent of all cases. The annual cost to Mexico (illness, surveillance and vector control) is US $170 million. Despite ongoing research, there are currently no licensed vaccines to prevent dengue infection. Led by Professor Reyes-Sandoval, the group secured funding from the Newton Fund Institutional Links programme to conduct research in Mexico where the virus is particularly prevalent.
Institutional Links provides grants for the development of research and innovation collaborations between the UK and partner countries. Under the Newton Fund, Institutional Links grants facilitate research that tackles local development challenges such as extreme weather conditions, access to affordable health care, food and energy security.
The funding for this specific programme bought vital equipment and enabled scientists from both countries to work face-to-face and share their expertise.
The study itself comprised of 18 volunteers and three public hospitals, with diagnostics carried out by the Ministry of Health laboratories (LESP-INDRE).
The study indicated that nearly everyone tested responded to the vaccine antigen, and if taken into production, the vaccine could be essential for travellers going overseas.
The research group have now secured funding to transfer their research to industry, with a UK patent pending. There is also a consortium for vaccine development in place, with new research collaborations around HPV and typhoid vaccines.
Following on from this, the programme has succeeded in securing funding from two other sources which have lead to further development of the vaccine. Their work has also helped to strengthen collaboration with three institutions; resulting in three collaborative research laboratories.
This programme’s infrastructure and learnings has been used as a platform to influence other research projects for vaccinations. It supported the mobility of ten scientists from Mexico to Oxford to further build their capacity in this field.
Newton Fund Research pillar invests in collaborations between UK-based and local researchers to understand countries’ specific development problems and needs, and to identify possible answers. This is demonstrated through the Dengue Fever Collaboration between Mexico and the UK. Grants of this kind greatly support the exchange of expertise, research knowledge and establish local hubs for UK-partner country activities.
The work also helped to establish a growing consortium of scientists in Mexico and the UK with common interest in studying viruses, further fostering collaboration and relationships between the two countries.