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Sheryl Rosenberg, Dr. Adrianne Myers, and Dr. Frank Plummer. Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Left to right: Dr. Jotham Micheni, CEO of Kenyatta National Hospital, Simon Nabukweski, High Commissioner of Kenya in Ottawa, Prof. James Ole Kiyiapi, Permanent Secretary of Health for Kenya. Photo by Rhonda Spivak


By Rhonda Spivak

The province of Manitoba has announced that it is committing $100,000 per year for the next three years toward collaborative research on HIV/AIDS, influenza and swine flu to be carried out by scientists in Manitoba and Jerusalem.


The research will take place under the rubric of the newly founded Global Research Exchange Program, a project initiated by Canadian Friends of Hebrew University (CFHU).
The province's commitment means that the Global Research Exchange Program's funding now totals $1.1 million, which includes money committed by the University of Manitoba and Hebrew U, as well as a $100,000 grant from the Winnipeg Foundation. It also includes $300,000 raised from the CFHU gala dinner in Winnipeg in May 2008 honouring internationally renowned Winnipeg researcher Dr. Frank Plummer. CFHU also received support from the International Centre for Infectious Diseases after its gala dinner.

Sheryl Rosenberg, president of the Winnipeg chapter of CFHU, said that the funding the project has attracted is a "fitting tribute to Dr. Plummer's dedication in the pursuit of vaccines to fight infectious diseases worldwide."

Plummer's scientific team at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory and U of M will collaborate with Dr. Ofer Mandelboim's team at Hebrew U's Institute of Medical Research Israel -Canada. The fund will enable the scientists to travel between Winnipeg and Jerusalem to carry out their research.

Jim Rondeau, Manitoba's minister of science, technology, energy and mines, said the province was pleased to be supporting "such brilliant minds' through its Science and Technology International Collaboration Fund.

"We look forward to seeing the fruition of this great collaboration," he added.

Plummer said, "I never would have thought when I was honoured at the gala dinner, it would have led to securing over a million dollars for research into infectious diseases."

Dr. Adrienne Meyers, who works with Plummer and is the senior research co-ordinator for the joint collaboration, visited with Mandelboim's team in Jerusalem this past summer.

Dr. Mandelboim's team has expertise in a branch of immunology dealing with natural killer cells [NK cells], which defend against viruses and bacteria. She said, "The expertise of Dr. Mandelboim's laboratory is a very good match with the expertise of Dr. Plummer's team, which has extensive experience with HIV/AID. The merging of the two teams makes a lot of sense scientifically, and will aid in filling important gaps in our knowledge base of how specific areas of the immune system function in the context of HIV infection."

Meyers said the two teams have already selected four specific projects, three of which deal with NK cells in the context of HIV, and the other project deals with NK cells in the context of influenza viruses, including swine flu.

The first project, already in progress, will deal with NK cells and host genetics. The second will examine how NK cells recognize the HIV virus. The third project will consider how NK cells interact with other components of the immune system in mediating resistance to HIV infection. The fourth project will research the role of NK cells during influenza infections, including swine flu.

" We want to see if NK cells help fight against the swine flu infection as they do against other viruses," Meyers said.

The Winnipeg Foundation and CFHU are now trying to generate further donations to secure ongoing funding for the research collaboration.


In late October, The High Commissioner of Kenya to Canada,  Simon W.  Nabukwesi , who is stationed in Ottawa, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that his government "is interested in learning more about this collaborative  research on HIV."

Nabukweski, who was in Winnipeg and attended an event put on by the Manitoba -Israel Shared Values Roundtable with the Mayor of Tel-Aviv, said, "We know Dr. Plummer very well becasue he lived in Kenya for 17 years conducting research on AIDS."

Nabukweski added, "A delegation from the  Kenyan governemtn is planning to go to Israel in November.  We don't just  want the ties to be between scientists, but  we want them to be between state [Kenya] to state [Israel]...There are potential research exchange and training opportunities between Kenya and Israel."

Nabukweski was here with Dr. Jotham Micheni, CEO of Kenyatta National Hospital, and Prof. James Ole Kiyiapi, the Permanent Secretary of  Health for Kenya. 

Prof. Kiyiapi told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that, "While in Israel, I intend to look at how the Israeli health care sytem works to see what may be applicable to Kenya."

 *Versions of this article have appeared in the Canadian Jewish News and the Vancouver Jewish Independent.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.