Building Capacity in Pakistan: Training in the Use of Polymerase Chain Reaction

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The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is supporting a training program for early career scientists in Pakistan to develop and improve advanced molecular-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques. PCR methods improve capacity for targeted surveillance and detection of high threat pathogens and outbreaks, and reduce the need to culture and store infectious material. The training will be conducted in collaboration with the National Institute of Health in Pakistan and the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

The Opportunity

Competitively chosen applicants will be selected to participate in a three-phase training program. An international committee of experts with membership from Pakistan, the United States, and Kenya, appointed by the U.S. National Academies, will oversee selection of trainees and development of the training program.

Introductory Workshop in Islamabad, Pakistan

A three-day introductory workshop will be held at the National Institute of Health of Pakistan in Islamabad in summer 2019. Trainees will participate in a discussion and demonstration of PCR best practices. Trainees will discuss experimental designs for their individual research conducted at their home institutions.

Supporting Webinars

After the workshop, trainees will participate in webinar-based training covering topics relevant to PCR. These may include reagent and primer acquisition, assay development, sample preparation, and other topics.

Training in Nairobi, Kenya

A one-week training course will be conducted at the Kenya Medical Research Institute in Nairobi in fall 2019. Fellows will receive in-depth experience conducting and troubleshooting PCR techniques. Fellows will have the opportunity to address identified shortfalls from practice at their home institution and work on methods and analysis applicable to their research interests.


Please note that the application closed on Sunday, June 23 at 11:59pm
Pakistan Standard Time (GMT+5). Applicants selected for the next round will be notified via email.

Committee Members

Committee Members
Hamid Irshad (Co-Chair)
National Agricultural Research Centre

Dr. Hamid Irshad is currently a senior scientific officer within the animal health program at the National Agricultural Reseach Center in Islamabad, Pakistan. Dr. Irshad received a PhD in Veterinary Public Health from Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand in 2013. He also received a DVM in veterinary medicine in 1999 and a M.Sc. in veterinary microbiology in 2002 from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan. His expertise includes molecular epidemiology of disease-causing E. coli in slaughtered animals, zoonotic disease survelliance, and vaccine efficacy. Dr. Irshad was selected as a One-Health research Fellow from 2016-2017 for his research on Occurrence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains of public health significance from slaughtered animals in Pakistan.

M. Kariuki NJenga (Co-Chair)
Washington State University

Dr. M. Kariuki Njenga is Professor at the Washington State University Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, and the Country Director of the WSU Global Health Program – Kenya. He holds a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Science degrees from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and a PhD from the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Njenga obtained 5 years of post-doctoral training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. His research training is in virology and immunology. Between 2004-2011, Dr. Njenga served as Laboratory Director of the CDC in Kenya, first to establish and equip the laboratories and later to lead diagnostic testing for outbreaks in the horn of Africa and East Africa for diseases, such as Rift Valley fever, Avian influenza, Hepatitis E, Leptospirosis, and anthrax. Between 2011 and 2014, Dr. Njenga served as head of the One Health (1-H) Program at CDC-Kenya and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). For 1-H research, he focused on conducting systematic burden of disease studies on priority episodic and endemic zoonotic diseases in the East Africa region, and studies at the animal-human-environment interface in order to elucidate the mechanisms of animal-to-human transmission. In addition, he was instrumental in developing a linked human-animal population based syndromic surveillance platform that investigated the nutritional, economic, and zoonotic interactions between rural sub-Saharan people and their livestock.

Meghan Davis
John Hopkins University

Dr. Meghan Davis is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering and the School of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a molecular epidemiologist and an environmental microbiologist, studying the interface of bacteria and hosts to reduce microbe-mediated disease in humans and animals. Designing and testing interventions to combat the rise of bacterial antimicrobial resistance and both infection and non-infection outcomes related to microbial exposures in a one health context is the goal of the work conducted in her lab. Her dissertation research examined transmission of the drug-resistant “superbug” MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) among people, animals and the environments in which they live. Dr. Davis received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2012, and a Master and PhD of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Dr. Davis was a planning committee member of the National Academies Workshop, Toward Understanding the Interplay of Environmental Stressors, Infectious Disease, and Public Health: An Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions.

Robin Miller
U.S. Agency for International Development

Dr. Robin Miller is a parasitologist by training with a background in molecular epidemiology. As a AAAS Fellow and technical advisor, Dr. Miller is working with the Malaria Vaccine Development Program and the President’s Malaria Initiative at USAID. She has experience in infectious disease research including molecular parasitology, entomology, immunology, virology, malaria genetics, vaccine development, and HIV/malaria co-infections. She also has experience developing new tools for the detection and surveillance of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. Dr. Miller has experience fostering diverse multilateral collaborations between universities, governments, military (US and non-US) in resource limited settings, particularly through investigations of HIV-malaria co-infection in Western Kenya and leading malaria detection trainings in Nigeria. Her molecular laboratory technical expertise includes next-generation sequencing techniques, nucleic acid extraction, real-time PCR, cloning, and primer/probe design. Dr. Miller received her Ph.D. in 2016 in Emerging Infectious Diseases from the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, where she also served as postdoctoral fellow and adjunct assistant professor.

Erum Khan
Aga Khan University Hospital

Ms. Erum Kahn is currently an associate professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Aga Khan University Hospital. She obtained her MBBS in medicine from Dow Medical College in Karachi, Pakistan. She also has a MSc in molecular biology and pathogenesis of viruses from Imperial College, London, UK and her FCPS in medical microbiology from Fellow College of Physicians and Surgeons in Pakistan. She has been the head of clinical microbiology, as well as a consultant in clinical microbiology, at Aga Kahn University Hospital since 2000. She serves as a Postgraduate Training Supervisor at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Pakistan. Her research interests include arbovirus prevalence and pathogenesis, with a focus on dengue hemorrhagic fever and other arboviruses in Pakistan. She also studies the emergence of multi-drug resistant pathogens.

Aamer Ikram
National Institute of Health, Pakistan

Dr. Aamer Ikram is the Executive Director of the National Institute of Health, Pakistan. He received an MCPS in clinical pathology in1991 and an FCPS in microbiology in 1998 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Pakistan, and a PhD in Microbiology (2014) from Baqai Medical University, Karachi. He received clinical training at Countess of Chester Hospital, UK in 2005. Dr. Aamer’s experience is in the fields of biosafety, biosecurity, dual-use safety, and infection control. Additional certifications include a certificate course in emerging infectious diseases from University of Iowa and the ‘Dual-use Biosecurity’ master trainer course from Bradford University. Dr. Ikram is the first Pakistani to be a Registered Biosafety Professional with the Association for Biosafety and Biosecurity, a Biosafety Level 2 Professional with the Institute of Safety in Technology & Research, and an International Federation of Biosafety Associations Certified Professional. In 2012, he was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians from the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh and in 2014 the Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists from the Royal College of Pathologists in London. Dr. Ikram has served the community through positions including: President of the Pakistan Biological Safety Association; President of the Medical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan; Higher Education Comission Focal Point Expertise under National Research Programme for Universities; Convener Microbiology PMRC; and member several National Working Groups. He is actively involved in academic and research activities, has been Chief Editor of Infectious Diseases Journal Pakistan, and is among the editorial board of renowned national and international journals. Dr. Ikram was selected as the International Ambassador by Society Healthcare Epidemiology of America and was conferred the ‘Biosafety Heroes Award’ by IFBA in 2011.

Heather Fritz
University of California, Davis

Dr. Heather Fritz is currently a Veterinary Diagnostician in Bacteriology at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory at UC Davis. Her research focus is in molecular characterization of Toxoplasma gondii oocysts to understand oocyst development and environmental resistance. Her specialty focus lies within protozoal parsitology, clinical and diagnostic parasitology, and clinical and diagnostic microbiology. She uses multiple molecular diagnosic tools, including PCR, transcriptomics, and proteomics. She has taught courses on veterinary paristiology and parisitology diagnostics. In 1999 she received her BS in ecology and evolutionary biology and her BSA in veterinary science from the University of Arizona. Dr. Fritz received a DVM in veterinary science medicine in 2005 and a PhD in comparative pathology in 2011, both from UC Davis. Her international research experience includes a position in the Department of Infectious Diseases, Universidad Nacional Autonomia de Mexico.