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Baylor College of Medicine News

Tropical Medicine School at BCM and Universidad Autonoma de Yucatán unite to fight neglected tropical diseases

During the inaugural lecture to the entering class of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Alfredo F.J. Dájer, rector of the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatán, lauded the global partnership that links the two institutions of higher learning in the battle to improve the health and living standards of millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the United States.

Such a collaboration will benefit populations in all those regions, he said, while fulfilling the goals that govern institutions of higher learning – solving problems of social inequality, poverty and marginalization in a way that engages local communities, governmental sectors and business in the fight.

The research vision of the collaboration is to establish partnerships in order to develop new vaccines against neglected tropical diseases while strengthening the capacity for vaccine development in Mexico, he said.

He pointed out that neglected tropical diseases affect millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean and that fighting them will require "knowledge, people with commitment, political will, resources, and programs as well as public policies. Perhaps someday, we can refer to them as former tropical diseases," said Dájer.

A memorandum of understanding signed between the two institutions will enable synergies that can address many millennium goals for future health, he said.

"We are not starting from zero," he said.

Already in place is the Slim Initiative for the Development of Tropical Disease Vaccines that is funded by the Instituto Carlos Slim de la Salud. This Product Development Partnership, led by the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, is a collaboration with other high level institutions including the Universidad Autonoma de Yucatán, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Cinvestav, the University of Pittsburgh and Birmex Laboratorios de Biológicos y Reactivos de Mexico S.A. de C.V.

"Imagine a country in Latin America where your future did not depend on where you come from, how much your family earns, what color your skin is, or whether you are male or female. Imagine if personal circumstances, those over which you have no control or responsibility, were irrelevant to your opportunities, and to your children's opportunities."

That is what his university hopes can happen in Latin America "with a little help from our friends."