Inside a lab in Jamaica, scientists study mosquitoes that spread viruses like Zika and chikungunya. The insects are kept inside sealed, temperature-controlled containers – equipment that was donated to help the lab advance its research.
“Before the incubation unit arrived, Dr. Sheena Francis, who was conducting the research, was using handmade wooden containers to house the mosquitoes, and a lizard got in and ate our test subjects,” says Professor Rupika Delgoda, head of the Natural Products Institute (NPI) at the University of the West Indies, Mona. “When the new unit and other equipment arrived from Merck and other companies, our research went to a whole new level.”
The University of the West Indies is among the universities benefiting from the Instrumental Access program offered by Seeding Labs, an organization that helps scientists get the training and tools they need to advance research and tackle current and future epidemics.
“Scientific talent is everywhere, resources are not,” says Dr. Melissa P. Wu, CEO of Seeding Labs. "Imagine being in a lab that only has a fraction of the tools that you need – either going without critical equipment or making it yourself. Many researchers in developing countries are working on critical issues, but their pace of discovery can be severely hampered by the reality of their environment."
Seeding Labs sends quality, surplus and used lab equipment to research institutions in low- and middle-income countries through its Instrumental Access award program. Approximately 140 organizations donate the equipment, including Merck, the largest program donor.
For NPI, the Instrumental Access award has helped productivity increase dramatically.
For 18 years, we had to build our lab by purchasing one or two pieces of equipment per year. When the shipment arrived from Seeding Labs, it was like receiving 10 years of equipment at once.
Donated beakers, flasks, water purifiers, refrigeration and other equipment help NPI researchers and their graduate students study plants and other naturally occurring products that may help eliminate mosquitoes that are developing resistance to common household pesticides.
In addition, equipment donations help NPI researchers on other projects, such as studying interactions between prescription drugs and medicinal plants commonly used in Jamaica and natural products with impact on cancer cell viability.
INSTRUMENTS TO THE PROGRAM
HELPED MORE THAN
STUDENTS AND SCIENTISTS ADVANCE BIOLOGY AND CHEMISTRY RESEARCH
“Our donations are helping to remove a key barrier to scientific discovery and education in the developing world: lack of access to modern equipment,” says Johnny Bennett, associate vice president, discovery chemistry, Merck Research Laboratories. “In addition, access to equipment enables receiving institutions to enhance the education of the next generations of scientists.”
Seeding Labs designated our company as the sole Fermium donor, meaning we have donated more equipment to Instrumental Access than any other partner. Our donations include some of the most-needed and most-requested items by scientists, such as microscopes, scales, chromatographs, thermocyclers and spectrophotometers.
The universities that apply for an Instrumental Access award cover a broad range of research efforts, including research in infectious disease, cancer, climate change, water quality and agriculture.
“Together with our donors, we’re empowering scientists in developing countries,” says Dr. Wu. “We’re giving them the resources they need to pursue research that can fight global disease, feed our growing population and protect our planet.
Seeding Labs aims to unleash the full potential of scientists worldwide. The organization has shipped more than 212 tons of donated lab equipment to 70 universities in 34 developing countries. Learn more.
Institute of Tropical Medicine & Global Health at Universidad Iberoamericana, Dominican Republic, the site of the Caribbean’s first clinical trial for a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PReP) to reduce HIV transmission
Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where scientists are studying breast, colon and prostate cancer biomarkers
Institute of Molecular Biology National Academy of Sciences, Armenia, where scientists work to develop a new treatment for schizophrenia