August Issue 2018

Cancer Research in Mali Needs Your Support

From cancer research in Mali to water quality in Kenya, all donations made to The Reagent Project will support scientists through our flagship program ReEquip.

 Dr.  Almass  Toure, Assistant Professor, University of Bamako

Dr. Almass Toure, Assistant Professor, University of Bamako

When Dr. Almass Toure was growing up in the 1980s and ‘90s, near the border of Mali and Niger, drought and famine were common. The sparse health infrastructure was stretched to its breaking point, leaving many without access to care. And armed skirmishes, including coups, broke out regularly on both sides of that invisible national divide. But Almass did not just see problems. He saw a people poised to create a thriving nation—if someone provided the necessary tools. It was then that he decided to become a scientist and help forge those tools needed for progress. 

“From a young age, I knew that there was potential for harmonious development here,” he says. “My ambition has always been to solve the daily problems of the population through scientific research.” Today, he stands poised to achieve that goal by establishing the first cancer research lab at University of Bamako. One catch: He needs $7,000 to ship 16 pieces of equipment, currently languishing untouched and unused in The Reagent’s Project inventory, from NYC to Bamako.

But we should back up. Because before Dr. Toure could come so close to achieving that childhood dream, he knew he would have to leave Mali for a time—as the national university system had few advanced scientific programs. However, though many young Malians who receive advanced degrees in other countries opt never to return—feeding a national “brain drain,” Dr. Toure was committed to heading home and galvanizing scientific innovation.

My ambition has always been to solve the daily problems of the population through scientific research.
— Dr. Almass Toure

In 2012, just over a decade after he first left home, Dr. Toure finished up a postdoc at University of British Columbia, in Canada, after first receiving a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology at University of Toulouse, in France. He then hopped a flight to Mali to start a position as an Assistant Professor in molecular biology at University of Bamako.

And though it didn’t seem like it at first, it also turned out to be an ideal moment to start instituting change. The same year, rebel groups conducted a violent coup in the northern part of the country, displacing hundreds of thousands of citizens. However, in the aftermath, the governments of Mali, Niger, and three other neighboring countries created a formal institutional framework to increase regional economic and security cooperation—and more stability ensued. Now, although Mali remains 175th out of 188 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, the poverty rate has fallen, and economic growth and private investment in industry are increasing. The national scientific research sector, however, remains underdeveloped. And that’s where you come in.

“Currently, in Mali there is no research on cancer at all,” says Dr. Toure of his mission to establish a cancer lab, where he would not only continue his own research on the cellular events involved in tumor formation and progression, but begin offering students a masters research program in cancer. “Without this equipment, we will not be able to establish the program. The department at the university does not have the budget for it.”

Without this equipment, we will not be able to establish the program.

In Mali, the average life span is 58 (20 years less than in the U.S.), cancer incidence is reportedly rising, and cervical cancer, which is highly treatable when detected early, remains a leading cause of death among women. So please, donate today and help Dr. Toure train scientists who can then help combat cancer at a national level—and create the basis for a sustainably healthier Mali.

Marcella FloresComment