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Durham University

Research & business

Durham University research tackles global issues

(3 July 2018)

Durham University’s research is tackling global issues thanks to its success in securing over £13m funding across 11 projects since 2016. 

The University has an excellent track record of being awarded funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

The GCRF supports cutting edge research to address challenges faced by developing countries. It aims to reduce poverty through knowledge and technology, addressing challenges for the poorest people and countries.

Neglected tropical diseases

Durham University currently leads the GCRF Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease, an £8m award involving 14 different institutions from across the UK, Brazil, India and Pakistan.

The Department of Biosciences and the Department of Chemistry are working with colleagues from universities in York, Sao Paulo and Kalkotta on a global network to combat neglected tropical diseases.

The research focusses on Leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, two parasitic diseases which exist in regions of South America, Africa and Asia. 

The group, led by the Department of Chemistry’s Professor Graham Sandford, includes more than 50 partners. They will use new chemical and genetic technologies to help discover targets that drugs could act upon.

Finding new targets is one of the most important scientific steps to enable a new drug to be developed and the group’s aim is to improve drugs currently used to treat Leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.

Wind energy in Africa

WindAfrica is a £1.27M GCRF project led by Durham University which aims to provide guidelines for the construction of turbines in areas where soil is sensitive to moisture changes.

The project is led by Dr Ashraf Osman from the Department of Engineering who is working with partners from across the globe, including Cambridge University, the University of Pretoria, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Currently, about half of Africa’s total population lacks access to electricity, despite the fact that around 35% of the world’s resources for wind energy are located on the continent. 

Site investigations have shown that many areas identified as suitable for wind turbines have expansive soils beneath the surface, a soil type which is particularly sensitive to moisture changes. During the rainy season water causes expansive soils to swell and during the dry season shrinkage occurs. This cycle can cause significant damage to wind turbines installed on these soils.

Unacceptable forms of work

The GCRF is also supporting Professor Deidre McCann’s research into the need for working lives to be protected in developing countries.

This research recognises that effective labour regulation is crucial, but some policies and regulatory strategies that could help eliminate unacceptable work, especially in developing countries, have not yet been identified.

Professor McCann is leading a strategic network on unacceptable forms of work with a view to generating research agendas and providing insight into the design and implementation of domestic and international law.

Tackling global challenges

Academics from the University gathered on 3 July to showcase their GCRF-funded research at the Celebrating International Development Research event.

Professor Louise Bracken, Head of the Durham University GCRF Liaison Group and Executive Director of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, said:

“It is great to see the vital and impactful research academics are undertaking to address challenges faced by developing countries.

“We have seen great success with funding from the GCRF and our research plays a part in helping the world to meet its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The University is creating a new GCRF Centre for Doctoral Training which will see 20 PhD students from Developing Assistance Committee countries studying from February 2019.

“The centre shows our commitment to SDGs and reaffirms our intention to deliver cutting edge research which has global impact.”

Find out more:

  • For more information about GCRF, please click here.
  •  If you would like to join Durham University, we’ll be recruiting academic staff later this year in our Annual Recruitment Campaign. Please register your interest and we will contact you when vacancies are advertised


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