Global Challenges Research

£100,000 awarded to fund 12 projects that aim to develop global research partnerships

Keele receives an annual allocation of QR GCRF funding from Research England. During 2019-20, a proportion of this funding has been allocated to fund 12 projects that aim to develop global research partnerships. Details of these projects are as follows:

INTEGRITY: Integrating regional sea-level and climate projections with adaptation strategies for low-lying coasal communities (Prof. Chris Fogwill)

Whilst there is a focus on long-term mitigation and adaptation strategies for global mega cities, smaller coastal communities in low-lying areas already live with the impacts of sea-level rise daily, and developing coordinated mitigation and adaptation strategies for such communities is key to our collective global sustainability goals. The INTEGRITY project aims to develop an international multidisciplinary research network designed to share, strengthen, and build our capacity in key research areas fundamental to reducing the impacts of environmental shocks caused by sea-level rise to low-lying coastal communities in Bangladesh.

Developing new academic collaborators in Latin America (Prof. Christian Mallen)

The importance of primary care to improving health in low and middle-income countries is well established and cannot be overstated, representing a global priority in the drive towards accessible healthcare for all. For many people living in rural settings, primary care provides the only opportunity to access treatment. The aim of this application is to establish new collaborative partnerships to support future global health research activity and collaborative funding applications with partners in Latin America.

Developing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Awareness, Diagnostic and Support Training amongst Education, Health and Social Care Practitioners who Serve Displaced Communities in the Context of Protracted Humanitarian Crisis (Prof. Derek McGhee)

There is a lack of research focused on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Middle East, especially amongst refugees in the context of protracted humanitarian emergencies. The aim of this project is to work with partners in Lebanon to explore: how ASD is understood in non-Western settings and how the understanding of ASD differs across different societies and communities; some of the cultural barriers to identifying and supporting children and families affected by ASD in the context of protracted humanitarian crisis; and to test the feasibility of Keele, CICC (Cauldwell International Children Charity) and UNWRA (United Nations Workers Relief Agency) co-producing culturally sensitive, community-based interventions that will enhance awareness of ASD and ‘in-community’ diagnostic skills, behaviour management skills and social support skills.

Development of Attractive Antimalarial Sugar Baits AASBs for interrupting malaria development in mosquitoes (Prof. Frederic Tripet)

Attractive Toxic Sugar Baits (ATSBs) are a novel mosquito control tool that have recently been approved by the World Health Organisation for deployment in ODA countries to improve malaria mosquito control. This project will enable collaboration between researchers at Keele and Tanzania to support development of a new vector control tool to curb the incidence of malaria, which aims to improve health by reducing mortality and morbidity by malaria infection.

Sustainability: Collaborative Research between South Africa and Keele (Dr Helen Glanville)

This collaborative venture is intended to build and expand upon existing research links within South Africa (SA), in the area of environmental sustainability, by re-linking existing partnerships and developing new links. SA’s population has increased dramatically and as a nation SA is extremely vulnerable to climate change that, together with urbanization, industrial and agricultural developments, threatens the unique biodiversity that is essential in sustaining the health and wealth of its people. There is an urgent need to strengthen the capacity of research, education and outreach to develop change and to generate research that can improve the livelihood of the poor rural communities while conserving the natural resources. Collaborative research links developed through this project will focus on providing food security, protecting air, land and water resources and providing clean energy and reducing carbon emissions.

Workshop to develop a Mediterranean network on the psychosocial effects of cutaneous leishmaniasis (Dr Helen Price)

Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) represents a major public health burden for many of the poorest communities across the world. There are no vaccines to protect against infection and treatment options are largely limited to the use of toxic drugs which are difficult to administer. The aim of the project is to improve the patient journey for people living with CL and empower communities to deal with the devastating effects of stigma that it causes. The spread of CL across the Mediterranean basin has risen dramatically over the last decade and represents a major public health burden. This project is the first of its kind in aiming to address the issue of CL-associated stigma and represents a valuable opportunity to develop collaborative interventions for this disease on a global scale. In the long term this could have a huge positive impact across large CL-endemic regions, relating to improved physical and mental health, reducing inequalities and increasing economic growth.

Artistic engagement in global health residence scheme (ANGLES) (Prof. Lisa Dikomitis)

This project will provide funding for a pilot residency scheme with, and for, socially engaged artists around the globe who are committed to creative community engagement in health research. At the core of the project is the participatory element of socially engaged art, working with and in communities impacted by cutaneous leishmaniasis in Brazil and Ethiopia. The project will focus on stigma reduction and reinforcing empowerment using the creative process as a mechanism for enabling change, strengthening collaborative working, developing knowledge through creative practice and acting as an effective catalyst for accelerating capacity building. The project will aim to raise awareness of global health issues, bring about behaviour change and influence health policy through arts-based public interventions.

Oral Traditions as Governance Building in Somali territories (Dr Rebecca Richards)

Oral traditions have historically been a vital component of governance within Somali societies. To date, little research has been done on the impact of this mechanism of governance, particularly as part of statebuilding. This project seeks to work with partners in Somaliland to examine the role and impact of oral traditions in Somaliland, with the aim of broadening this to Somalia and the Somali dominated regions of Ethiopia in the future. It is envisaged that this project will utilise creative methods of interrogation carried out in Somaliland. The statebuilding project in Somaliland, to date, has resulted in a stable democracy that integrates traditional mechanisms of governance with modernising institutions. This project will feed directly into political processes and seeks to inform and contribute to those international community led debates and decisions.

Omics approaches to sustainable agronomy: understanding the impact of saline soils on maize (Dr Sarah Hart)

The project focuses on the development of a broad bioscience-focussed partnership between Keele and Comsats University, Islamabad. This partnership will seek to advance the understanding of the biochemical and physiological factors which underpin salt tolerance in maize, towards the development of salt-tolerant maize. Maize (Zea mays) is the third most important food crop plant in Pakistan behind rice and wheat. Yields and sustainability of this crop have dwindled in recent years. Food equity and hunger is a growing issue for the post-industrial world, with biotechnology being a potential route towards solutions. Climate change and resulting rising sea levels affect the growing of crops along with increasing pressure for food. Developing agricultural strategies to overcome these problems will be key in the quest to retain adequate food supplies for a growing population. This project will increase the knowledge base behind this which it is hoped will have a significant impact on the agronomy of Pakistan and other nations.

Improving mental health outcomes in young people living with HIV/AIDS in Lesotho: Moving forward together (Thomas Shepherd)

This project will support the development of a partnership with Sentebale to develop a low-cost, community-based intervention for common mental health (MH) conditions in adolescents and young adults living with HIV/AIDS in Lesotho. Lesotho has the second highest HIV prevalence among adolescents and young adult men and women. Mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, are among the most prevalent comorbidities of HIV/AIDS and significantly contribute to reduced health outcomes, reduced antiretroviral therapy adherence, increased risk-taking behaviour and increased healthcare costs for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The development of effective and low-cost interventions to support PLWHA with MH conditions in low resource areas is critical. This application is to conduct a CE&I workshop with Sentebale to explore these issues.

Healthy Harvests: developing a Keele-IITA research collaboration to reduce crop losses to pests and the diseases they vector (Prof. Toby Bruce)

The project will explore how research collaboration can develop new, improved ways of preventing crop losses to pests and the diseases they vector. ODA countries face serious challenges in protecting harvests from losses to pests. The project looks to facilitate and strengthen new collaborations in Tanzania. Resource poor farmers have limited access to pesticides and are exposed to operator hazard when they are used. We therefore need to develop appropriate crop protection treatments and strategies they could use. Our goal is to develop new treatments that smallholder farmers can use to protect their crops.

Preventing Bacterial and Biofilm Infections on Medical Implant Coatings Using Cyclic Peptides from Traditional Chinese Medicines (Dr Wen-Wu Li)

This project aims at to develop novel antibiofilm coatings to be applied on medical implants using components in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to address the great challenge of solving biofilm-related antibacterial resistance in China. Antibacterial resistance (ABR) poses an urgent threat to global health. The collaborative research will address a global unmet need but primarily and directly relevant requirement in China. The knowledge transfer between the UK and China research teams will catalyse continued research, helping support China’s discovery and development of additional techniques to combat ABR, leading to further beneficial impacts. The findings from the project will be of benefit for multiple groups, and are intended to have a long-term impact on the creation of new implant materials against bacterial resistance and biofilm formation. (project to commence in 2020-21)