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NIHR invests £34 million into global health research on epilepsy, infection-related cancers and severe stigmatising skin diseases

Published: 04 November 2019

The NIHR has invested £34 million of funding into global health research projects to tackle epilepsy, infection-related cancers and severe stigmatising skin diseases in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

The NIHR Research and Innovation for Global Health Transformation (RIGHT) programme has awarded Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding to eight projects led by teams made up of researchers in the UK and those in LMICs.

The three topic areas chosen for this first funding call of RIGHT - epilepsy, infection-related cancers and severe stigmatising skin diseases - were selected because they are key areas of unmet need where a relatively small investment can result in a transformative impact.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer and NIHR lead, said: “This significant investment in such a diverse spectrum of projects in under-funded and under-researched areas highlights NIHR’s emerging aim to fund applied global health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in LMICs, where the heath needs are often greatest.”

Five of the eight projects awarded funding by RIGHT focus on reducing the public health burden of severe stigmatising skin diseases - a £21 million investment in this neglected area.

Dr Helen Price and Dr Lisa Dikomitis and their team at Keele University, along with researchers from four different continents, have been awarded £4.6 million for a four-year research project to improve the patient journey for people living with cutaneous leishmaniasis, a rare disease that causes disfiguring skin lesions. The project will work with communities in Brazil, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka to empower people to deal with the devastating effects of stigma associated with the disease.

Dr Stephen Walker and colleagues at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have been awarded £5 million for a four-year programme of research in Ethiopia and Ghana. Their research will address major clinical, social and public health challenges associated with leprosy, yaws, Buruli ulcer and cutaneous leishmaniasis - four very severe, infectious skin diseases that stigmatise, disfigure and cause major physical disability, psychological distress and social isolation.

Two of the funded projects will investigate reducing the public health burden of epilepsy. Dr Sudhin Thayyil and colleagues at Imperial College London will investigate an intrapartum care bundle to reduce perinatal brain injury and prevent epilepsy in India. Professor Charles Newton and his team at the University of Oxford will develop a programme of research to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy in Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.

Professor Anna Schuh and colleagues University of Oxford are investigating two new techniques to diagnose Epstein-Barr virus, a common cause of blood cancers in sub-Saharan Africa. Their research in Tanzania and Uganda aims to speed up diagnosis and treatment of the infection, reducing the mortality rate from these cancers.

The eight projects funded by RIGHT call 1 are:

Severe stigmatising skin diseases

  • Empowering people with Cutaneous Leishmaniasis: Intervention Programme to improve patient journey and reduce Stigma via community Education (ECLIPSE; Dr Helen Price and Dr Lisa Dikomitis)
  • Improving experiences of severe stigmatising skin diseases in Ghana and Ethiopia (Dr Stephen Walker)
  • Transforming the Treatment and Prevention of Leprosy and Buruli ulcers in LMICs (Professor Richard Lilford)
  • Social Sciences for Severe Stigmatising Skin Diseases (the 5-S Foundation; Professor Gail Davey)
  • REDRESS: Reducing the Burden of Severe Stigmatising Skin Diseases through equitable person-centred approaches to health systems strengthening (Professor Sally Theobald)


  • Prevention of Epilepsy by reducing Neonatal Encephalopathy (PREVENT; Dr Sudhin Thayyil)
  • Epilepsy Pathway Innovation in Africa (EPInA; Professor Charles Newton)

Infection-related cancers

  • Evaluation and Transfer of mobile whole slide tissue scanners and liquid biopsies to deliver fast and precise diagnosis for improved outcomes of children and young adults with EBV-driven lymphoma: a joint Tanzanian and Ugandan Paediatric Oncology Network Initiative (Professor Anna Schuh)

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