National poverty-fighting project could include U

The University is applying for a multimillion dollar contract.

Kaitlyn Walsh

The University of Minnesota is formulating a proposal for a U.S. Agency for International Development contract that could mean up to $3 million in funding to find solutions for poverty-related issues.
The money would connect organizations like research institutions and universities to develop answers to the worldâÄôs problems. The broad-ranging objectives include developing a network to take on challenges facing vulnerable populations like youth, people with HIV and the extremely poor.
The University is partnering with Development Alternatives Inc. to get a âÄúmaster contract,âÄù which is the first step toward the funding, said Pamela Webb, associate vice president for research
administration at the University.
The University is already working with DAI on the RESPOND project, which focuses on improving health professionalsâÄô ability to address zoonotic diseases, which pass from animals to humans and include Ebola and avian influenza.
âÄú[DAI was] very pleased with the University on that project and therefore invited us to be a partner with them on this,âÄù Webb said.
The University is one of a number of schools working with DAI. According to Webb, the University could be involved in projects spanning several departments. If the group received the funds, USAID would propose projects the University could be a part of.
âÄúIt certainly sounds exciting,âÄù Webb said about the proposal. âÄúThe University is interested in seeing whether or not [the projects] would be a good fit.âÄù
More than 50 faculty members have already expressed interest, Webb said, including faculty from the College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Education and Human Development and the School of Public Health.
The deadline to submit proposals for the contract, titled Economic Growth for Poverty Reduction, is May 9, and Webb said she anticipates the University will turn in paperwork to DAI the first week of May.
DAI first recruited the University for RESPOND to take advantage of its expertise, strong veterinary school and ability to network with other universities to train health professionals and address animal-borne disease outbreaks, said Peter Dugan, a spokesman for RESPOND.
The RESPOND project plans to implement the One Health Central and East Africa network, which would establish a network of 14 schools and 11 universities in six East African countries to better combat emerging infectious diseases, said Katey Pelican, an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and co-head of the project.
One goal of OHCEA, according to Pelican, is to strengthen health professional programs and link them so they are better trained to respond to outbreaks.