Yale School of Public Health, Nazarbayev University Launch Advanced Research Training to Address HIV

ASTANA – The Yale School of Public Health is partnering with Nazarbayev University (NU) School of Medicine on an advanced research training program that will support promising scientists and clinicians interested in phylogeny of viruses and molecular epidemiology, reported the NU press service on Jan. 4.

Photo credit: Nazarbayev University.

“The new program, called MoVE-Kaz for Molecular Virology/Epidemiology Training in Kazakhstan, is funded by a grant from the Fogarty International Center of the United States National Institutes of Health. The training will provide Kazakh scientists and research clinicians with the necessary skills to help them investigate the spread of HIV in Central Asia and how it is affecting high-risk communities,” the report reads.

The estimated number of people living with HIV infection in Kazakhstan increased by 133% between 2010 and 2020. The increase is in contrast to the decreasing HIV incidence outside of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Populations transmitting the infections are poorly understood in Kazakhstan, and persons living with HIV lack access to proper health treatments and interventions. The training program is intended to improve HIV disease surveillance capacity and treatment options with better knowledge of regional resistance patterns. 

“The mission of the MoVE-Kaz program is to transfer cutting-edge skills to future generations in Kazakhstan,” said Dr. Syed Ali, Professor of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Nazarbayev University School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the training initiative. “We must capacitate our young scientists by training them in advanced research skills at par with top world institutions.”

The training program aims to create a pool of highly skilled Kazakh scientists and clinicians who are knowledgeable about phylogenetic applications and trained by national and international mentors from partner institutions. Other partner institutions associated with the program are Asfendiyarov Kazakh National Medical University in Almaty, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, and the State University of New York (SUNY).

“Molecular virology involves the study of virus characteristics and how those traits influence transmission from person to person. It has proven effective in characterizing high-risk communities where infections are emerging. Prioritizing such communities for interventions can prevent further disease transmission. Yet, expertise in molecular virology is scarce in Kazakhstan and neighboring countries. The training will focus on the genetic assessment of HIV, as well as epidemiological approaches to research, such as how to design field studies to best sample a population,” said Dr. Syed Ali.

The full training is scheduled to start in early 2024 after the first cohort of Kazakh researchers is selected. The core curriculum will be held at Nazarbayev University School of Medicine, but participants can come to New Haven for three months of targeted virology training. The Fogarty grant will also allow researchers interested in statistical genetics and computational biology to travel to KU Leuven in Belgium to learn under Philippe Lemey, a professor of evolutionary and computational virology with the Rega Institute.

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