The DOLF Project (supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) is conducting community MDA studies and clinical trials that aim to optimize treatments for elimination of lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis. With 11 field studies in 8 countries in Africa and in the Asian-Pacific region, we are studying the value of accelerated MDA in different settings, and we are testing different drugs and drug combinations for LF elimination in areas such as Central Africa and Papua New Guinea that pose special challenges to traditional approaches. Studies comparing the impact of albendazole plus ivermectin vs. ivermectin alone on adult Onchocerca volvulus may improve prospects for elimination of onchocerciasis. And we are conducting the first large scale studies of the impact of mass drug administration for LF on soil-transmitted helminth infections in diverse settings.
Our field studies are conducted as partnerships with leading investigators and institutions in the USA and Europe and in disease-endemic countries. Complex projects like DOLF present management challenges, and we are restructuring the management team for the next phase of the project, which will continue through 2017.
As you may already know, Andrew Majewski has decided to leave DOLF and Washington University to take up a position as Operations Manager at the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center, Taskforce for Global Health in Decatur, Georgia. Andrew has done an excellent job over the past 4 years as the Scientific Project Manager for the DOLF project. We are grateful for his contributions and wish him well in his new position at NTD-SC.
Jennifer Klenke has managed the finances and contracts for DOLF since 2010. She will now take on new responsibilities as Global Health Project Manager for Finance and Administration. Jennifer holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and will finish her Masters in Finance at Webster University later this year.
We are also happy to announce the following new members of our research team which conducts translational and operational research on helminthic parasites and diseases.
Dr. Melanie Lloyd (Postdoctoral Fellow) joined our group in August 2013. She is a New Hampshire native who received her PhD degree with Professor Robert Poulin at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Her research focused on the ecology and population genetics of animal trematode parasites. Melanie is conducting basic laboratory research on Wolbachia endosymbionts of filarial nematodes and participating in field research on the impact of MDA on nematode infections in Africa and Asia.
Dr. Johnny Vlaminck (Postdoctoral Fellow) recently obtained his PhD degree with Professor Peter Geldhof at the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences at Ghent University, Belgium. His dissertation project focused on the biology, immunology and epidemiology of Ascaris infections in pigs, and he developed an interesting new diagnostic assay for this infection that was commercialized. Johnny will work to develop new diagnostic tests for human helminthic infections and participate in applied field research projects.
Finally, we are happy to report that Dr. Philip Budge will join the infectious diseases faculty at Washington University as an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the summer of 2014. Dr. Budge is an infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist who served as an EIS officer at CDC for 3 years and worked on filariasis projects with Drs. Els Mathieu and LeAnne Fox before moving to Vanderbilt University for his clinical and research fellowship in infectious diseases. Phil is interested in field epidemiology and translational research on tropical diseases. He will initially work closely with the Weil Lab group and develop an independent research program over time.
In Summary, we are enthusiastic about the next phase of the DOLF project, because this is when we will be gathering the harvest of seeds planted over the past four years. The Gates Foundation has challenged us to aim high, and we hope that our research will substantially improve chances for global elimination of lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis.
Best regards from the St. Louis-based DOLF Research Team,
Peter Fischer and Gary Weil
Washington University School of Medicine