Abdoulaye Djimde, PharmD, PhD
Malaria Research and Training Center at the University of Science, Techniques and Technologies of Bamako, Mali
The vision of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, “a world free of tropical infectious diseases,” has never been more pertinent. Infectious diseases are one of the most challenging threats to this ever-shrinking village in which we all live. Ease of travel, instant communications, and increased integration of the world economy have led to a true globalization of the threat of infectious diseases. Examples such as SARS, the Ebola virus, and most recently the Zika virus are striking reminders that the fight against infectious diseases is indeed a global matter. Tackling a global matter will require global efforts and collaborations, which makes the recent move of the Society towards increased internationalization, including in its leadership, a welcome development.
During my tenure as an ASTMH Councilor, I will bring to the table my knowledge and experience dealing with the issues of infectious diseases from the deepest corners of Africa to a global stage. Because I am a well-known figure in malaria research and have been involved in numerous training, capacity development, advocacy, and leadership development efforts across Africa, my position as Councilor will undoubtedly attract more African scientists, especially young ones, to the Society. I will invest my time, energy, and connections to promote and replicate the fantastic initiatives of “ASTMH in the Tropics” in the footsteps of our colleagues from Peru and Kenya. I will promote such meetings in each of the main regions of Africa, with the goal of using this opportunity to foster regional collaborations and share knowledge on infectious diseases. In addition to these within-Africa initiatives, I will reach out to my fellow disease-endemic country scientists from Asia, Latin America, and Southeast Asia to advocate for more inter-disease endemic-continent collaborations, networking, and sharing of best practices. I will use each of these events and opportunities to showcase the excellent work that ASTMH and its American members are doing in the fight against infectious diseases, “primarily our diseases,” and promote increased collaborations between the American membership and the growing international membership.
The fight against infectious diseases cannot be won without steady, sustained, and increasing funding and the input of fresh minds. Along these lines, training, engaging with, and inspiring young scientists will be at the heart of my efforts as Councilor of the Society. I will bring experience I have gained hosting and mentoring trainees from Africa, Europe, Asia and America through various training initiatives in which I have been involved. Examples of such initiatives are a number of Fogarty training grants, which I helped to implement under the leadership of Prof. Ogobara Doumbo, and ASTMH Past President Christopher Plowe, that provided funding for US graduate and postgraduate students in Mali for clinical training lasting from several weeks to a year. It has been rewarding to see a number of these trainees at annual meetings of the Society, and to discover that they have decided to work on tropical diseases in their respective careers.
Advocacy and fund-raising are important pillars of the fight against infectious diseases. As a Councilor, I will be happy to bring the African and disease-endemic perspective to any advocacy and fundraising activity of the Society. In addition to US activities, I will use my position as ASTMH Councilor to help advocate for increased funding for infectious diseases research from African and other disease-endemic country governments.
I am invited on a regular basis to attend and speak at various events hosted by the World Health Organization, European, African and other international organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and public-private-partnerships. If elected Councilor, I will use each of these opportunities to make the voice of ASTMH heard at these various gatherings.
I joined the Society twenty years ago when I was a first-year PhD student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and have since missed only two of its annual meetings. It will be a true privilege to serve the Society in this leadership role, and I look forward to this opportunity.
Summary of Volunteer/Member Roles in ASTMH
Prof. Djimde joined ASTMH as a first-year PhD student in 1996. He has since attended all but two ASTMH annual meetings. At each annual meeting of the Society he co-chaired and co-organized multiple scientific sessions and symposia. He delivered the Commemorative Fund Lecture at the latest ASTMH 64th
annual meeting in Philadelphia.
Prof. Abdoulaye Djimde studied Pharmacy at the University of Mali. After receiving his doctorate in 1988, he started a private pharmacy in Bamako, where he learned first-hand about the huge need for more effective ways of preventing and treating malaria. This experience led him to volunteer as a research assistant at the Malaria Research and Training Center in Bamako, and eventually to work as a graduate student with two ASTMH Past Presidents, Christopher V. Plowe at the University of Maryland and Thomas E. Wellems at the NIH, earning his Ph.D. degree in 2001. In his thesis project, he conducted seminal studies describing the first reliable molecular marker for chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum
malaria, and proposed a model for monitoring drug resistance in the field using molecular markers, publishing the results in the New England Journal of Medicine
Despite many opportunities to work in the USA or Europe, Prof. Djimde returned to Mali, where he has transformed an initial team of two students and a technician to a research group of over 30 scientists including clinicians, pharmacists, and biologists over the past 15 years. With this team and a cadre of collaborators, he conducts field and laboratory studies to explore how mutation events in the genomes of malaria parasites, human hosts, and mosquito vectors relate to the outcome of treatment and the spread of drug resistance. Some of his research results form the basis of current malaria treatment guidelines in Mali. His accomplishments were recognized in 2001 by a “Chevalier de l’Ordre National” medal from the President of Mali, in 2005 by an International Research Scholarship from the HHMI, awarded to only two African scientists, and in 2008 by a “Prix de la Pharmacie Francophone” from the National Academy of Pharmacy of France, awarded to a francophone pharmacist for scientific productivity.
In the past 15 years, Prof. Djimde has also adopted international leadership roles. He was instrumental in founding the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) and served on its Scientific Advisory Board till 2009, was appointed Chair of the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Task Force within WHO-TDR in 2009, and as one of two International Fellows at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in 2012. He currently serves as Coordinator of the West African Network for Clinical Trials of Antimalarial Drugs (WANECAM), Leader of the Plasmodium
Diversity Network-Africa (PDNA), and Director of the DELTAS Africa program Developing Excellence in Leadership and Genetics Training for Malaria Elimination (DELGEME). He is frequently invited as a speaker by the WHO, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), and international scientific conferences. Prof. Djimde joined ASTMH as a first-year PhD student in 1996, and has since attended all but two ASTMH annual meetings, co-chaired and co-organized multiple scientific sessions and symposia, and delivered the Commemorative Fund Lecture at the ASTMH 64th
annual meeting in Philadelphia.
Photo credit: AAS