August 2022: ICGEB Director-General, Lawrence Banks visits Member State Zimbabwe
16 August: Dr. Banks on mission in Zimbabwe, ICGEB Member State since 2019. The mission is one of a series of science diplomacy visits to ICGEB Member countries and includes meetings with both government officials and scientific experts in the country.
Addressing a critical local issue, Dr. Banks chaired a session on Tumour Virology and Epidemiology at the ICGEB Meeting “Human papillomavirus (HPV) and related cancers; Prevention, Screening, Diagnosis and Priority research areas for LMICs” organised by the University of Zimbabwe, where he also headed a discussion about HPV entry and trafficking mechanisms.
Attended by researchers from Zimbabwe and other neighbouring LMICs that are ICGEB Member States, the meeting focused on HPV-related cancers and included poster presentations by PhD and Postdoctoral researchers.
“We examined major insights into treatment, prevention and diagnosis of HPV-associated diseases in low-resource settings, highlighting the grave situation in the southern African region, where cervical cancer remains the biggest cause of cancer death in women – despite it being completely preventable”. stated Dr. Banks. “Deaths are particularly high in women in their forties – with major implications both socially and economically. Although awareness does not present an obstacle, there are not sufficient resources to test everyone who should be”, he continued, concluding “we need to work on a test which can be provided for free, or for very symbolic amounts of money”.
Dr. Banks met with the Hon. Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation Science and Technology Development of Zimbabwe, Prof. Dr. Amon Murwira, who expressed great commitment to ICGEB, highlighting that science and biotechnology are the future in which Zimbabwe is keen to invest. The Minister also expressed interest in increasing the number of fellows from Zimbabwe being trained in ICGEB labs, as well as developing collaboration in the areas of genomics and the production of biopharmaceuticals, as the country aims to localise the production of certain critical medical drugs.
The Director-General also met with Mr. Massimo Amadeo, Administrative Chancellor at the Italian Embassy in Harare, stating that ICGEB activities in Zimbabwe play an important role in the commercial application of biotechnology for national development and the adoption of advanced technology.
Previous ICGEB activities in Zimbabwe include the ICGEB & The Future of Science “Third bioinformatics research symposium” which took place in Harare in 2021, participation in ICGEB’s COVID-19+ project, and the initiative on Enhancing Trade Through Regulatory Harmonisation and Biopesticide Based Residue Mitigation in the SADC Region.