Keynote speaker focuses on disease prevalent in the Middle East
SEATTLE, March 20, 2003 – It couldn’t be more timely: Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (SBRI) is hosting a long-planned protozoology conference this week, and one of the main topics will be a disease endemic to the Middle East, where the U.S. presently has nearly a quarter of a million troops.
Approximately 100 scientists from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia are expected to attend the 15th annual Seattle Protozoology Conference today and tomorrow at Seattle Pacific University. Stephen M. Beverley, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology and Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at Washington University in St. Louis, is the keynote speaker. Dr. Beverley is a noted expert in the study of the protozoan parasite Leishmania, which infects more than 12 million people in many countries around the world, including Afghanistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The parasite is transmitted by sand flies and causes leishmaniasis, a disease that can leave its victims severely scarred or cause death. While leishmaniasis is a little-known illness in the United States, the World Health Organization reported that the disease reached epidemic proportions in Kabul, Afghanistan, last year.
“When we asked Dr. Beverley to be our keynote speaker, we didn’t realize that the topic would be as timely as it is with war looming in the Middle East,” said Jean E. Feagin, Ph.D., a Principal Investigator at SBRI, who along with Amy DeRocher, Ph.D., one of SBRI’s Senior Scientists, serves as co-chair of the conference. “After the Gulf War, a number of military personnel who had been stationed in the Middle East were diagnosed with leishmaniasis at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The parasite is found in human blood, and that’s one of the primary reasons that Desert Storm veterans who might have been exposed were asked not to donate blood for a period of time after they returned home. Our soldiers who are now being deployed to the Middle East also face the possibility of contracting leishmaniasis.”
SBRI currently has a leadership role in the Leishmania Genome Project, which involves sequencing the genome of Leishmania major Friedlin, a parasite that causes leishmaniasis. The sequencing is expected to be complete later this year and could provide the basis for treatments and drugs to combat leishmaniasis.
The Seattle Protozoology Conference provides a regional forum for presentation and discussion of research progress on the molecular and cellular biology of protozoans, which are single-celled microscopic organisms. The conference will feature a particular focus on parasitic protozoans that cause infectious diseases such as malaria, African sleeping sickness and leishmaniasis.
In addition to providing a forum for current research, the Seattle Protozoology Conference is a training ground for graduate students, as well as post-doctoral researchers, who are often presenting their research in a public forum for the first time.
“It’s often the lab heads who make presentations at national and international meetings. In contrast, graduate students and postdocs give almost all the talks at this meeting. It provides them an opportunity to hone their presentation skills to an audience that includes some of the best researchers in this field,” explained Dr. Feagin. “As a research organization with an emphasis on training, SBRI is pleased to offer this opportunity as we recognize that a scientist’s career advances, in large part, on his or her ability to convey cutting-edge research before an audience of peers.”
Seattle Biomedical Research Institute drives scientific innovation by harnessing emerging technologies to advance global health through key research discoveries. Founded in 1976, SBRI is the largest independent, non-profit research institute in the United States focused solely on the world’s most devastating diseases, including malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The mission of SBRI’s 140 employees is to conduct targeted research leading to the prevention, diagnosis and cure of global infectious diseases, responsible for the deaths of 14 million people each year. SBRI’s discoveries have resulted in advanced diagnostic tools, promising leads for vaccines and drug targets, and seminal contributions to scientific knowledge. For more information about SBRI, visit www.sbri.org  or call 206.284.8846.
For more information, contact:
Lee Schoentrup, SBRI Communications Manager
206.284.8846, ext 440