June 2021

Tackling viral diseases

Molecular biologist Dr Pelumi Adeyemi (PhD 2017)

Each year, more than 300,000 African children die of sickness and diarrhoea. Nigerian alumnus Dr Pelumi Adeyemi is working alongside colleagues from Leeds to tackle the deadly viruses causing these unnecessary deaths.

Sickness and diarrhoea can prove fatal for children living in some of the poorest regions of the world – and molecular biologist Dr Pelumi Adeyemi (PhD 2017) is working at the sharp end of this major health challenge.

Pelumi studied for his PhD with Professor Nicola Stonehouse’s research team in the Faculty of Biological Sciences, where he examined virus-like particles, key components in the development of cheaper and safer vaccines. And now, from his laboratory at the University of Ilorin in Western Nigeria, Pelumi is determined to make significant inroads into investigating the viruses which cause such devastation in his own community.

Like many scientists in the developing world, Pelumi is unable to exploit the latest bio-molecular techniques to diagnose and research disease. His laboratory lacks hi-tech equipment and many of his colleagues don’t have the practical skills needed to exploit advances in molecular biology.

Now support from the University, and funding from the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is helping bridge that gap. Pelumi’s appointment as a visiting research fellow allows him to spend short periods at Leeds to tap into our expertise in virology, while bringing the same advanced molecular biology techniques to his own lab.

“Leeds research is at the cutting edge of molecular biology. GCRF funding allows us to have scientists from low-to-middle income countries to come and work alongside us on important research projects at the frontiers of science.”

Professor Nicola Stonehouse
Professor in Molecular Virology

With the support of Leeds academics, he was able to secure a £25,000 grant from GCRF to buy a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) instrument – crucial for COVID-19 testing in Nigeria’s Kwara State, home to 2.5 million people. This investment was complemented with a grant worth £180,000 from the Nigerian Government with which a molecular diagnostics and research laboratory was established at the University of Ilorin and serves as a regional public health disease surveillance laboratory. Equipment and supplies have also been shipped from Leeds to boost the research capabilities of the team.

Prof Stonehouse explains: “Leeds research is at the cutting edge of molecular biology. GCRF funding allows us to have scientists from low-to-middle income countries to come and work alongside us on important research projects at the frontiers of science. Through that process, we can help them become more effective research scientists who can return home and apply the latest scientific approaches to the problems which their nations face.”

Learn more about how the Global Challenges Research Fund is enabling Leeds researchers to engage with the world’s biggest issues and read the Inside Track article written by Simone Buitendijk, Vice Chancellor, and Nick Plant, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research & Innovation – "Why research funding cuts won't stop us working with the Global South."