IDRI - Infectious Disease Research Institute

What Do Comic Books and Antibiotics Have in Common?

comicIn 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster introduced their now iconic superhero, Superman in Action Comics #1, ushering in the golden age of comic books. Around the same time, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain began their work in developing pure penicillin, the first natural antibiotic which was discovered by Alexander Fleming a decade before, for use as a therapeutic agent.

Similar to what the Man of Steel did for comic books, the clinical use of penicillin ushered in the golden age of antibiotics, eventually saving many lives.

After Superman, other superheroes, such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain America, were introduced, as comic books were becoming a mainstream artform. Similarly, after penicillin, the development and clinical use of streptomycin, tetracycline and other antibiotics emerged. Unfortunately, not all golden ages last a thousand years.

After World War II, the popularity of comic books and their once cherished characters began to lose their luster. By the 1960’s, the emergence of drug resistance along with other factors marked the end of the golden age of antibiotics. (more…)

Ebola Ban at ASTMH: Focus on Ultimate Goal of Meeting

Bill Gates addresses the opening session of the ASTMH meeting.

Bill Gates addresses the opening session of the ASTMH meeting.

As world leaders in the field of infectious disease research – including scientists from IDRI – gather today in New Orleans for the 63rd annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH), the topic of Ebola is taking main stage, for a variety of reasons. Last week, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals sent a letter to ASTMH members warning them that “in an abundance of caution,” it is banning any attendees who have been in West Africa in the last 21 days from traveling to Louisiana – even if they have no symptoms of Ebola.

This has raised questions and provoked  another round of controversy, with the ASTMH stating in a memo to members: While the state of Louisiana’s policies are outside of the scientific understanding of Ebola transmission – and acknowledged by the state health officials’ own admission – we recognize that the state has determined its policy in this matter. ASTMH does not agree with the policy as outlined by the Louisiana DHH.

IDRI’s Aarthy Vallur, Ph.D., who is attending the meeting, weighed in, “The ASTMH put together a last minute Ebola program, and this sort of behavior (the ban) deprived those who need it most from getting the knowledge and help to tackle the disease,” she said. (more…)

More TB Than Before?

tb14_cover200x283pxSobering news just reported by the World Health Organization (WHO): the estimated numbers of cases of tuberculosis (TB) has gone up by half a million, and now stands at 9 million people with TB in 2013 (up from 8.6 million in 2012). And worse than that, ~1.5 million people died.

In the Global Tuberculosis Report 2014, WHO states “This year’s report shows higher global totals for new TB cases and deaths in 2013 than previously.” These data may reflect better reporting of TB cases, rather than a real increase in cases, but still the number of people infected is staggering and represents a great deal of suffering.

There is some good news, as the mortality rate is falling. However, WHO reckon that there may be as many as 3 million undiagnosed cases of TB every year. That’s a huge group of people who are not receiving the antibiotics and care they need. In addition, there were nearly half a million cases of drug resistant TB. (more…)

Experts Say Infectious Diseases Know No Boundaries


Bruce Carter, Frank Prendergast and Steve Reed discuss emerging diseases.

As headlines are filled with news of disease outbreak, nearly 150 people joined us last week for the 2nd annual Around the World with IDRI Celebration to learn more.Ourexpert panel, featuring Steve Reed, Bruce Carter and Frank Prendergast, discussed Ebola and other emerging diseases, along with diseases like tuberculosis that have been around for hundreds of years. Kristen Eddings Tetteh of the Washington Global Health Alliance served as facilitator of the panel discussion.



IDRI’s Malcolm Duthie, left, discusses our work in Brazil with event guests.

The effect of disease on families and economies becomes very real when you hear stories like the one shared by IDRI board member Bruce L.A. Carter: “When my mother was 14, she had three sisters. When she was 15, she had none. Her sisters died of TB.”

Guests also had the opportunity to virtually visit Brazil, India and South Africa to hear from IDRI scientists about the work we’re doing in those countries, while enjoying international food, drink and music.


Read GeekWire’s recap of the panel discussion.


Read more from our experts at


Read our latest Annual Report to learn more about IDRI’s progress to develop new solutions to combat infectious diseases of global importance.

What is a PDP — and Why Does it Matter?

NOTE: this blog comes from an interview conducted with IDRI’s Rob Lin by Claire Topal of the National Bureau of Asian Research.

Around 20 years ago, researchers and funders realized that there was a need to create pdphealth solutions for diseases of the poor in developing countries, and that this need wasn’t necessarily being (or going to be) addressed by pharmaceutical companies given existing market mechanisms. Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) were created as a tool for donors and governments to fund projects that would address some of these inequities and reduce or even remove the risk for pharmaceutical companies to be engaged in the process.

The way PDPs work is similar to drug and vaccine development in the pharmaceutical sector. The main differences are that funding doesn’t come from private sources but rather from public sources—either governments or large foundations—with the goal of developing health solutions for diseases of the developing world that don’t have a large market potential. (more…)

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