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Advancing public health in India

November 29, 2007

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By Marianne Meadahl

In December, Simon Fraser University will be the first Canadian university to sign an agreement that will help India produce research pioneers and professionals in public health.                 

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is one of three agreements that SFU President Michael Stevenson will sign with Indian institutions during a trip to India with Premier Gordon Campbell and 60 B.C. post-secondary representatives Dec. 1–7.

The landmark MOU is with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), a publicly and privately funded organization that is developing seven Institutes of Public Health in India (IIPHs). With $50 million from the Bill Gates Foundation, the PHFI is partnering with universities worldwide to train future faculty for the institutes.
SFU joins the ranks of several prestigious international partners that have signed similar MOUs including Johns Hopkins University, Emory University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“It’s an opportunity for SFU to participate in an international partnership that will see our master’s of public health students get practical training and our faculty develop collaborative research programs in India,” says Stevenson.

The other agreements:
  • SFU, the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology will develop collaborations in the area of bioinformatics and infectious diseases, beginning with malaria and tuberculosis.

  • The DBT will match SFU funding of $100,000 per year on a project related to infectious diseases. Fiona Brinkman, an associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at SFU and Cenk Sahinalp, an associate professor in the school of computing science, plan to collaborate with researchers in India to improve the computational identification of anti-malarial and anti-tuberculosis drug targets, and further characterize the structure of selected drug targets.
  • A village-life improvement project ­— the product of a partnership between SFU and the Indo-Canadian Friendship Society of B.C., together with the Village Life Improvement Foundation in Chandigarh. SFU students will participate in service learning, cooperative education and volunteer service programs, beginning with a two-year pilot project in Brahampur that will focus on the use of computers in learning and health promotion and education.
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