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The LeiSHield-MATI Project 

"A multi-disciplinary international effort to identify clinical, molecular and social factors impacting cutaneous leishmaniasis"


LeiSHield-MATI, an international inter and multidisciplinary consortium, aims to gain scientific knowledge on parasite-vector-host interaction to allow future development of new therapeutic and preventive measures through research and innovation staff exchange and knowledge sharing, bringing together unique expertise and infrastructures of its partners from EU and disease-endemic areas in Africa and Asia.


Leishmania causes devastating human diseases – leishmaniases - representing an important public health problem in the Mediterranean basin and declared as emerging diseases in the EU due to climate change and population displacement. The LeiSHield-MATI consortium will for the first time investigate in an integrative fashion the complex parasite-vector-host interplay in cutaneous leishmaniasis affecting Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Iran (MATI), using field isolates and human clinical samples. The ultimate goal of our project is to identify genetic factors selected during natural infection and to understand how the complex parasite-vector-animal interaction impacts clinical outcome in infected patients. This goal will be achieved through a highly ambitious secondment plan between all partners, and the organization of courses and workshops to train the next generation of scientists generating a long-term impact on the research capacities in endemic areas. Capitalizing on complementary infrastructures of its EU, African and Asian partners and their expertise in molecular parasitology, epidemiology, systems level analyses, bioinformatics, computational biology, immunology, dermatology, field studies, and public health, our project will drive important innovation in clinical research, strengthen capacities in disease endemic regions, inform authorities on control measures, and raise awareness in all partner countries on this emerging EU public health problem. The highly inter-disciplinary and inter-sectorial structure of LeiSHield-MATI, and its powerful integrative and comparative approach is novel in parasitic systems and will drive a unique bio-marker discovery pipeline for the future development of new prognostic and diagnostic tools, as well as novel preventive and therapeutic measures that will ensure long-term collaboration, promote scientific and commercial self-sustainability of its partners, and will have an important impact to improve public health.


Partners


Institut Pasteur (IP)


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Institut Pasteur is a private, non-profit foundation for biomedical research, hosting some 2,400 scientists, engineers, technicians and administrative staff. Its mission is built upon three cornerstones: 

  • Research: 11 research departments divided into units bringing together multidisciplinary teams' work at the very forefront of infectious diseases research, and are also dedicated to immunology, molecular biology, neurosciences, development biology, stem cells, genetics and genomics. 
  • Teaching: Institut Pasteur offers 27 courses attended each year by about 500 students from all over the world and also has a training centre for young scientists (Master or PhD fellows). 
  • Public Health: Institut Pasteur’s public health mission is to promote transfer of scientific discoveries to human health applications. 


Institut Pasteur d'Algérie (IPA)


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Pasteur Institute of Algeria, founded in 1894 in Algiers is a public institution with an industrial and commercial character. Its main missions are: epidemiological surveillance, research, diagnosis reference, training, vaccines and other biological products production, laboratory animals’ production and breeding, and the acquisition and distribution of human and animal vaccines. Over 1,000 persons work at IPA, including 40% of scientists in 41 laboratories.



University of Gothenburg (UGOT)

 

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UGOT is among the largest universities in Northern Europe and an active international university engaged in collaborative projects and partnerships all over the world. In FP7, UGOT participated in approximately 180 projects, both as a coordinator and a partner and is to date participating in 55 projects in H2020. Much of the medical research at UGOT is centred on more patient-oriented research and creating translational centres where clinical issues and biomedical expertise meet and create new ways of studying the mechanisms behind diseases and developing new intervention strategies, including vaccines. UGOT has a long-standing recognition in the field of vaccine and immunity, with the discovery of the licensed cholera vaccine Dukoral and 2 mucosal adjuvants among several other important contributions to the field. 



Charles University (CU)

 

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Charles University in Prague (CUNI), founded in 1348, is one of the oldest universities in Europe and currently the largest and best-rated Czech university according to international rankings. Through its 17 faculties, 3 institutes and 6 other centres of teaching, it offers full spectrum of bachelor, master and doctoral study programs. It developed broad international collaboration as one of ten European universities with the largest exchange of students and employees within the Erasmus+ programme and the 5th most demanded university by foreign students within this program. CU is an internationally acknowledged research university. Its academic community actively and successfully participates in grant programmes and is increasingly involved in international and European structures, forming consortia or clusters and applying for joint research projects. The scientists and research workers are involved in many international collaborations including 48 projects within the 8th framework programme Horizont 2020.
The Laboratory for Vector Biology, Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Science, is one of leading research groups that study various aspects of sand fly and Leishmania interactions under laboratory conditions as well as in natural foci. In past two decades, they conducted research in endemic countries including East and North Africa, Caucasus and Balkan countries. It maintains a largest European collection of phlebotomine sand fly laboratory colonies in its BSL2 insectary that is a part of Infravec2 research infrastructure project.



Institut Pasteur du Maroc (IPM)

 

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The Institut Pasteur du Maroc (IPM), with a staff of 220 people, is a research and public health Institute under the authority of the Moroccan Ministry of Health. IPM was created in 1911 (Tanger site) and 1929 (Casablanca site), and is a member of the International Network of Pasteur Institutes with whom it develops ongoing collaborations.
IPM provides a platform for biomedical analyses subject to a quality assurance process, equipped with modern equipment, and highly qualified staff. IPM also provides services for the control of food hygiene and the chemical and microbiological analysis of water.
The core tasks of IPM are to prepare and import serums, vaccines and biological reagents, to support research activities focusing on infectious diseases (tuberculosis, antibiotic resistance, hepatitis, influenza, cancer...) and based on the diagnosis, biological characterization and molecular epidemiology of viruses (influenza, hepatitis, HIV, rabies …), bacteria (tuberculosis, salmonella …) and parasites (Leishmania ….). IPM, provides a variety of educational and training opportunities throughout the year in collaboration with national and international universities.
IPM offers the only international vaccination center in Morocco and the Human Rabies National Reference Centre, located at the Medical virology and BSL-3 laboratory, is responsible of the Laboratory diagnosis of rabies suspect patients. In 2017, more than 5000 consultations, post-exposure rabies prophylaxis, were carried out at the Anti-Rabies Center in the Institut Pasteur Medical Center.



Institut of Tropical Medicine Antwerp (ITM)


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Tropical diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and poor health care influence the life of billions. Through fundamental and applied research, advanced education and expert services, the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp (ITM) works to advance medical science to improve their fate.
Researchers, doctors, veterinarians and nurses worldwide specialise in tropical medicine and public health at ITM. Our researchers seek a better understanding of tropical diseases, for which they develop improved diagnosis, treatment and prevention methods. Others study organisation and management of health care and disease control in regions where needs are huge but means are limited. Animal health gets particular attention and we focus on diseases that can be spread to humans.
Every year, we vaccinate tens of thousands of travellers and offer preventive and clinical care to returned travellers. As a reference centre for tropical diseases, public health and HIV/AIDS, we provide expert advice and collaborate with partner organisations worldwide.



Pasteur Institute of Iran (IPI)

 

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Pasteur Institute of Iran (IPI) was founded by the government of Iran with help of a private donation on August 10th, 1921, as one of the early branches of Institut Pasteur, outside Paris. The idea of establishing an institute for microbiological research and immunology in Iran was conceived in the aftermath of the 1918-19 influenza pandemic which killed hundreds of thousands of the country’s approximately ten million population. With initial scientific assistance of Institut Pasteur in Paris and collaborations between French and Iranian scientists during the twentieth century, the institute gained prominence as a beacon of public health to Iranians of all walks of life, offering various services including routine immunizations against infectious diseases. Till now, IPI has been offering its services as a subsidiary organization of the Ministry of Health where generations of scientists and technicians in their laboratories and in the fields have been upholding the public health standards across the country while conducting researches on infectious diseases such as plague, tuberculosis, rabies and leishmaniases, funded by national and international grants. IPI has also been successful in establishing a link between applied medical research and pharmaceutical biotechnologies and has become a leading regional facility in the development and manufacturing of various vaccines including tuberculosis, hepatitis B, rubella, rabies, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, cholera and yellow fever in its Karaj Production Complex. Since 1983, IPI has been offering full curriculum academic degrees at Ph.D. level in “Medical Biotechnology”, “Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and “Medical Bacteriology” as well as “Ph.D. by Research” programs. Moreover, IPI presents retraining courses, workshops and seminars in the area of medicine and public health on a regular basis.



ACOBIOM (ACOBIOM)

 

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ACOBIOM is a biotechnology company specialized in discovering new biomarkers and in developing new diagnostics, especially in personalized medicine applications. With biomarkers identified using its technology platform, and leveraging its over 18 years of expertise analysing molecular biology data, the company develops companion diagnostics, and patient stratification tests that take into account the biological and physiological differences of each individual. This makes it possible to segment patients, to predict the efficiency of a given treatment and also to help clinicians monitor patients' disease progression throughout their therapy. 



Institut Pasteur de Tunis (IPT)

 

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The Institut Pasteur de Tunis (IPT) is a public health institution under the authority of the Ministry of Health. IPT is commissioned to carry out epidemiological and clinical studies, biomedical investigations, as well as research activities pertaining to human and animal health. IPT also produces vaccines and sera and, as an affiliate of the “Université de Tunis El Manar”, it contributes to higher education at both the national and regional levels. IPT is internationally well established and collaborates with several foreign scientific institutions. The Institute is also member of the Institut Pasteur International Network, which consists of 33 institutes throughout the world. Founded in 1893, IPT celebrates its 124th year of existence in 2017. Ever since the days of Charles Nicolle (IPT’s Director-General, 1903 to 1936, and the 1928 Nobel Medicine Prize winner), IPT has held a prominent position in the history of medicine in Tunisia, with major discoveries in the field of infectious diseases, (discovered evidences of the transmission cycles of the epidemic typhus, discovering of Toxoplasma gondii agent of toxoplasmosis, discovering of dogs as reservoir of infantile visceral leishmaniasis, the original concept of asymptomatic infections). IPT has contributed to the eradication of several infectious diseases that were endemic in Tunisia, such as malaria, schistosomiasis, trachoma and poliomyelitis.


Work Packages 

 

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The LeiSHield-MATI consortium will apply an innovative systems-level approach capitalizing on material availability, expertise and complementarity of partners. The project consists of six Work Packages (WPs) to allow a very first integrative view on how parasite genetic factors are selected during natural infection and how the complex parasite-vector-animal interaction impacts clinical outcome in infected patients.

 

WP1, led by the Tunisian partner (IPT), will benefit from close exchange of staff between Tunisia and Morocco, Iran and Algeria. The partners in France, Belgium, and the Czech Republic will gain access to high-quality field samples, and in return transfer modern techniques for sampling under field conditions, and provide their expertise in HTseq analyses and vector biology.
WP2 will give to institutions in Iran, Algeria and Morocco a unique opportunity to enhance their knowledge in bioinformatics and genomics through secondments with experts in Tunisia, France and Belgium. This will strengthen local capacities and open important new scientific perspectives for future generations of researchers in this region.
WP3 Secondments by the Czech and Tunisian partners in Algeria and Morocco will train staff on sand fly sampling, rodent trapping, and natural as well as experimental infection models that will ultimately impact on local vector control measures.
WP4 will allow novel, clinically relevant insight into the physiology and immunopathology of host-parasite interaction by sharing expertise and material through staff exchange for (i) RNAseq analysis, immunology, and bio-marker discovery in France, (ii) in clinical immunology at the Swedish partner Institute, and (iii) access to patient material by partners from the South.
WP5 will allow to measure sociopsychological impact of CL based on expertise of IPT which will be shared with IPM, IPA and IPI and optimize knowledge sharing.
WP6 will ensure progress and timely fulfilment of all contractual commitments through a series of management actions that will (i) provide guidance and support to establish effective management and communication structures at partner institutes, (ii) ensure transparency for consortium partners and the EC through rigorous project documentation, (iii) favour scientific discovery and collaboration by efficient scientific and administrative coordination, (iv) promote visibility and encourage project outreach, ensuring the dissemination of results to the scientific community and all relevant stakeholders, as well as fostering innovation and exploitation of results.