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The mission of SSI is to support scientific and public health communities in resource-poor settings to develop sustainable local research and public health systems.
Global health relies on biomedical scientists and public health workers who can recognize and resolve health problems at the local level.
In developing countries, these professionals face tremendous challenges including lack of technical training, research tools, financial resources and up to date scientific information.
SSI works with local partners to better meet the public health needs of their communities by:
1. Informing and promoting action-led research (research in response to locally identified problems)
2. Identifying and adapting innovative technologies to local conditions
3. Developing a global network of colleagues and mentors
4. Training and supporting professional development including grant and manuscript writing
In 1988, the Applied Molecular Biology/Appropriate Technology Transfer Program (AMB/ATT) was rst conceived. Eva Harris, a recent Harvard graduate, envisioned such a program while volunteering that year in war-torn Nicaragua, at the Centro Nacional de Diagnostico y Referencia (CNDR) of the Ministry of Health in Managua. Harris was struck by the lack of resources available to her Nicaraguan peers in terms of research funding, equipment, supplies, training, and technical advice, as well as by the challenges posed to scientists by poverty and everyday life with suboptimal infrastructure, infrequent running water, and intermittent electricity. Despite these barriers, she was successful in training local scientists in the implementation of molecular biology techniques for the diagnosis of infectious diseases. She did so by deconstructing the technologies in question into their basic principles and building them back onsite while adapting them to the local conditions.
Harris also witnessed the effect of poverty, war, and the lack of access to diagnosis and health care on infectious diseases in Nicaragua and realized that, to improve the public health situation, the human and public health resources rst had to be strengthened. During her graduate school years in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, she partnered with like-minded scientists and formed alliances with colleagues in the United States and abroad who were interested in building scientic and public health capability in developing countries. This group of young, progressive researchers craved the chance to teach and apply their scientic knowledge in a way that would make a concrete difference in the lives of developing-country residents. For 10 years, they did so through the AMB/ATT program, following Harris’s initial vision, by donating their time and seeking small grants and individual donations. Through conducting customized training workshops and simplifying technologies onsite, they taught molecular biology-based disease diagnosis, epidemiology, and control of infectious diseases to public health researchers and educators in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Guatemala. They also channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of donated laboratory equipment, supplies, and reagents to Latin American researchers and institutions. Importantly, they formed lasting partnerships with many trainees, which have been crucial to sustain the initial mission over time. In 1997, Harris was awarded a MacArthur Genius Fellowship for this work. With this funding and support from small foundations, family, and friends, in September 1998, SSI was founded in San Francisco, CA. In 2004, SSI incorporated in Managua, Nicaragua and in 2011 in Cairo, Egypt.
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