IDRI - Infectious Disease Research Institute

No More Stereotypes: We Can All Be Scientists


IDRI’s Jeff Guderian pokes fun at the stereotype of the “mad scientist.”

Check out the latest research from the University of Washington. It confirms what we all thought: the images and stereotypes about scientists deter girls from wanting to pursue careers in this area. When scientists are portrayed as geeky and socially inept, girls lose interest regardless of whether the scientists portrayed are male or female. This paints a more complicated picture in how to address the serious under-representation of women in computer science and engineering. We need to get rid of these outdated and false stereotypes.

Although the study concerned computer science and engineers, it can equally apply to other branches of science. The conclusions of this study doesn’t seem surprising to me, since people want to work in interesting and rewarding environments, although it is nice to see it in a published research article.

There have been efforts to dispel these myths, one of my favorites being “This is what a scientist looks like,” but progress  is slow. For example, recent blockbuster films do nothing to dispel these myths, with biopics about Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking.

We would love for the media to represent us as we are – a varied and complex group of human beings, with a powerful curiosity that leads us to ask questions and want to understand things. Check out some of IDRI’s profiles of our scientists in all fields to see how different we are .

And yes – girls – come and join us – being a scientist is AWESOME!

Posted by Tanya Parish, Ph.D., Vice President, Drug Discovery



From the Field: Philippines Leprosy Project

cebuphiNOTE: IDRI scientists often travel to meet with partners/collaborators or to initiate projects in the field. Dr. Malcolm Duthie is working on a newly-funded leprosy project in the Philippines.

This week I have the privilege of visiting with partners in Cebu, Philippines, to initiate a project recently awarded funding from Novartis Global Foundation.

This multi-faceted project is centered on regular evaluation of leprosy patients and their household members by clinical examination as well as integrating tests of their immune response cebuphilinto this process. This will enable us to determine the acceptability and feasibility of testing in current settings, advancing toward the longer term goal of using tests to facilitate the streamlined referral of suspected patients to leprosy experts.

The need for such advances is evident when the history of the study volunteers is revealed, with many having had symptoms for prolonged periods of time before being properly diagnosed. In addition, the difficulties that many people endure in order to have their families attend the clinic highlights the need for simplified outreach programs in the continued battle toward elimination of leprosy.

Posted by Malcolm Duthie, Ph.D., Senior Scientist/Principal Investigator

Reasons to Believe: New Hope for Leprosy


Leprosy clinic in the Philippines.

Over the course of a year, IDRI welcomes hundreds of visitors to tour our labs and learn more about our infectious disease research and product development. Invariably, one thing takes our guests by surprise: leprosy, a disease that many associate with biblical times, still exists.

While global elimination (which is defined as a prevalence rate of less than 1 case per 10,000 people) of leprosy was officially announced in 2000, the fact is a quarter of a million new cases are reported worldwide each year. Although distributed in more than 100 countries, nearly 3 out of every 5 cases are found in India, where the disease was declared eliminated as a public health problem in 2005. Leprosy remains a very real issue in today’s world.

Nearly 15 years after the declaration of elimination on a global scale, media headlines are filled with news about the disease, as World Leprosy Day comes up Sunday, Jan. 25. The declarations of elimination have had far-reaching consequences, ranging from decreases in funding for specialized leprosy research, treatment and rehabilitation programs to the swaying of public and political opinion that the disease is no longer an issue. (more…)

Simple, Elegant Solution Holds Promise for Drug Resistance

bbcA lot of interest has been generated by a recent paper in Nature. Researchers have identified a new antibiotic that works against a wide range of bacterial species that cause infection, and resistance did not develop in the laboratory.

The need for new antibiotics is great; many infections are now resistant to the drugs we have, and there has been a lack of effort in developing new ones. Much has been said about the reasons why, but one reason is because antibiotics don’t make enough money to cover the cost of developing them. However, it remains the case we urgently need new antibiotics for many infections, including the ones we work on at IDRI, like tuberculosis.

Antibiotics are compounds produced by one living organism that kill another and in many cases they are produced by bacteria found in the environment, for example in water, soil, etc. In this research, the authors found a completely new antibiotic produced by a soil bacterium. (more…)

The Legacy and Lessons of Ebola

ebola-virusNOTE: The following was published in the Pacific Standard Magazine on Dec. 29, 2014.

Contrary to what many in the global health community seem to believe, 2014 will not go down as The Year of Ebola. It will, however, be remembered as the year that the world was faced with responding to an emerging pathogen in a rapid and efficient way. Not that this is the first time, of course, with SARS and bird flu being recent history, but it is a particularly memorable one nonetheless.

We know that a devastating disease will have varying degrees of impact on health systems, which cannot be predicted or fully anticipated. But this deadly disease, which quickly jumped country and continent borders, highlighted both how unprepared we are technologically and the fragility of many health systems. To be fair, to decry the fact that we are unprepared for a multi-continent outbreak of Ebola would have been greeted with a chuckle just a year ago—but now the question is: Which highly infectious disease is next?

But today, as we look toward 2015, it’s clear just how real, and just how deadly, threats like Ebola actually can be—it’s also clear that being prepared, and then moving fast, is critical when it comes to saving lives. This will require developing available technologies and a strengthening of health systems, both of which are needed to ensure the capabilities for the rapid response to emerging, deadly pathogens. (more…)

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