UTSA infectious disease researchers develop international partnerships in Lebanon

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In Beirut (from left) are Karl Klose, Alexander Abdel-Noor, Bernard Arulanandam and Janakiram Seshu

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(May 25, 2011)--Karl Klose, UTSA professor of microbiology and director of the South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID), and colleagues Bernard Arulanandam, associate dean of research for scientific innovation, and Janakiram Seshu, associate professor of microbiology, traveled to Beirut May 9-14 to develop international collaborations with microbiology-immunology researchers and clinicians at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Lebanon. Their travel was funded by the U.S. Department of State through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Security created the exchange as part of International Engagement: Responsible Bioscience for a Safe and Secure Society. The program introduces researchers in the United States to researchers in the Middle East or Northern Africa to develop research collaborations in health, agriculture and security with the potential to improve the well-being of the international community. Klose and Alexander Abdel-Noor, chairman of the AUB microbiology and immunology department, were awarded funds for the exchange program, which also will involve Lebanese scientists from AUB visiting UTSA later this year.

The UTSA infectious disease researchers traveled to Beirut on behalf of the UTSA South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID), which was established to support UTSA's teaching and research initiatives in molecular microbiology, immunology, medical mycology, virology, microbial genomics, vaccine development and biodefense. The center's researchers study the pathogenesis of emerging infectious diseases such as chlamydia, tularemia, cholera, Lyme disease, valley fever and others.

"When you collaborate with international researchers, it's so important to meet face to face in order to understand their research capabilities, their scientific culture and their most pressing research concerns," said Klose. "And, it's critical to keep up those relationships through personal contact. That is the key to the most successful scientific collaborations.

"Because of our visit to AUB, we now have a better idea of areas of common scientific interest and the expertise available in Beirut. Moreover, it has built a level of trust between the U.S. and Lebanese scientists that will greatly enhance these collaborative projects."

The AUB was established in 1866 and is home to nearly 700 faculty and approximately 8,000 students. It is ranked among the world's top 350 universities and is regarded as offering the best medical and engineering schools in the Middle East and Africa. Researchers in UTSA's STCEID also collaborate with scientists and clinicians in India, Chile, Colombia, Malaysia, Malawi, Germany, Austria, Spain and Norway.