Arming researchers for the fight against mosquitoes

Scientists in Jamaica researching mosquitoes

With equipment from Instrumental Access, talented scientists in Jamaica have accelerated their efforts to control disease-spreading mosquitoes.

There are no vaccines for mosquito-borne viruses like Zika, chikungunya, and dengue. When an epidemic of just one of these illnesses strikes Jamaica, it can sicken thousands at a time. 

Insecticides have been deployed by the government as the main prevention tactic for decades. But in recent years, mosquitoes have begun to fight back. 

Across Jamaica, they are evading efforts to reduce their population by developing resistance to the most commonly used insecticides. 

Their clever defense has renewed the urgent quest for new, effective methods of eliminating mosquitoes.

Dr. Rupika Delgoda, head of the Natural Products Institute (NPI) at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Jamaica, believes that a solution lies within Jamaica’s diverse ecosystem. 

Dr. Delgoda has innovative ideas to examine indigenous plants and natural products found on land, in the sea, and even in microbial sources. The NPI has talented scientists eager to tackle the problem.

So what’s held their research back? A lack of specialized lab equipment.

“A Sight to Behold”

Over 15 years, as part of the founding team at the NPI that built it from the ground up, Dr. Delgoda has been equipping her lab with a few instruments each year.

Her persistence finally paid off when she won an Instrumental Access award in 2017. The arrival of an Instrumental Access shipment at UWI in December 2017 brought with it a wealth of possibility.

“Ten years of equipment came all at once,” says Dr. Delgoda. “My students were in heaven! They were shocked. It was a sight to behold.”

Faculty, staff, and students unloading the NPI’s shipment of Instrumental Access equipment in December 2017.

The NPI’s labs are now stocked with crucially-needed instruments including an insect incubator, ultracentrifuge, PCR machine, and an HPLC-MS, and useful supportive instruments such as an ice maker, water bath, and shaker. 

Twenty-seven US-based donors contributed equipment to the shipment, which contained tools that would cost upwards of a half-million dollars to replace.

In less than a year, thanks to Dr. Delgoda and her team’s determination—and a boost from Instrumental Access—the NPI has seen positive impacts.

“Our productivity and capacity have drastically increased,” she says.

Dr. Rupika Delgoda
"It's not even been a year and I can see the rolling effects that will come from the equipment. By enabling us, you excite and invigorate science and technology in our country, region, and globally."

Dr. Rupika Delgoda,
Natural Products Institute

Reinvigorated Research

With new equipment in hand, several NPI projects that were stalled are now back on track and making exciting progress.

Dr. Sheena Francis and Dr. Rupika Delgoda, expand their research with Seeding Labs equipment
Since receiving equipment from Seeding Labs, Dr. Sheena Francis (left) and Dr. Rupika Delgoda (right) have the tools they need to expand their research.

Dr. Delgoda’s team, which includes postdoctoral scientist Dr. Sheena Francis, has launched a project examining new methods to control mosquitoes.

Before the equipment from Seeding Labs arrived, Dr. Francis was traveling to the US and England to further the research.

Together with support from collaborators at Colorado State University, they are working to understand how insecticide resistance has spread through Jamaican mosquito populations so that the insects can be more effectively targeted and eliminated.

The equipment from Seeding Labs has allowed the project to be expanded beyond the work initially carried out at Colorado State University, where Dr. Francis was a visiting research fellow in 2016.

“Understanding the magnitude and mechanisms of insecticide resistance is a critical step to curbing the impact of mosquito-borne illnesses in Jamaica,” Dr. Delgoda says.

Drs. Delgoda and Francis hope to use this knowledge to identify alternative insecticides that will effectively eliminate mosquitoes, and in turn, reduce rates of disease.

This work is supported by the Mosquito Control and Research Unit, a new institute developed in collaboration with UWI, the Jamaican Ministry of Health, and other government bodies. Dr. Delgoda forecasts the institute’s reach is likely to expand across the Caribbean.

Sustainable Science

The influx of equipment has also provided a foundation for Dr. Delgoda’s team to win new research funding—the fuel that will keep the NPI charging ahead.

In January, she won a grant from the governments of Jamaica and South Africa to support science collaboration between the countries. Dr. Delgoda’s graduate students have also been awarded grants from the Jamaican Ministry of Health.

These awards would not have been possible without the Instrumental Access equipment, she says, and has enabled the NPI to take on more students for training.

“The presence of equipment so needed by our institute increases the critical mass of skilled minds focused on solving our country’s issues,” Dr. Delgoda says. “It’s happened right in front of our eyes in the last few months with the arrival of equipment.”

Scientist at the NPI have also been sharing equipment with local scientists outside the Institute and expanding their collaborations.

NPI researchers and collaborators have other projects examining the value of natural products in cancer prevention and treatment, hypertension, diabetes, ethno-medicine, and prevention of drug-herb interactions. 

Photo at top:  Dr. Rupika Delgoda (right) and Dr. Sheena Francis (left) are able to accelerate their research fighting mosquito-borne diseases thanks to equipment the NPI received from Seeding Labs.

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Kaitlin Snyder

Kaitlyn Snyder
Logistics Intern

Kaitlyn started working for Seeding Labs in 2023. She works closely with the Scientific Director in the Instrumental Access program.

Kaitlyn is currently a junior at Boston University studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Jennifer Raymond

Jennifer Raymond
Corporate Relations
Senior Manager

Jennifer partners with corporations, universities, and nonprofit organizations to identify opportunities to repurpose surplus scientific laboratory equipment that will in turn empower talented scientists in developing countries through the Instrumental Access program.

Prior to joining Seeding Labs, Jennifer served as a Development Officer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where she managed relationships with donors, foundations, and corporations to advance the groundbreaking work of research scientists.

She also directed membership programs for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and alumni relations for the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Jennifer graduated from Wellesley College with a BA in French studies and a minor in philosophy.

Manisha Patel

Manisha Patel
Scientific Director

Manisha uses her scientific expertise to implement the equipment-related aspects of Seeding Labs’ programs and plays a key role in Instrumental Access.

She provides support to Instrumental Access awardees, helping them choose the instruments that best meet their research and teaching goals. She also advises the Corporate Relations team on equipment that would be useful in our awardees’ labs.

Manisha has extensive experience in managing academic research labs with knowledge spanning lab setup, compliance, and equipment training. Most recently, she oversaw labs at Harvard University.

For the past decade, Manisha directed an undergraduate internship program focused on one of her passions:  diversity and inclusion in STEM. She holds a BS in ecology from Rutgers University and an MS in ecology from the University of Vermont.

Micaela Leaska

Micalea Leaska
Programs Specialist,
Metrics & Evaluation

Micalea works with the Programs team to develop and implement metrics and evaluation tools, and to monitor the worldwide impact of Instrumental Access. She compiles and analyzes quantitative data and qualitative stories that exemplify our mantra, “talent is everywhere.”

Her prior work experience includes consulting for the World Bank, working on Water Security Assessments for Peru and Central America, and improving access to safe water in rural Ecuadorian communities with the nonprofit WaterStep.

Micalea holds a BA from Saint Michael’s College and completed her Master’s degree in Climate Change and Global Sustainability from SIT Graduate Institute, where she studied global science issues alongside scientists, stakeholders, and community members in Iceland, Tanzania, and Ecuador.

Chiudo Ehirim

Chiudo Ehirim
Instrumental Access

After completing an Atlas Corps Fellowship with Seeding Labs, Chiudo now provides support to our Instrumental Access partners from his Rumines Ltd. office in Lagos, Nigeria. Chiudo is CEO of Rumines, an environmental technology and management consulting company.

Prior to his fellowship, Chiudo was a country manager for Nigeria with Climate Scorecard, a US-based organization that monitors how the top 25 greenhouse gas-emitting countries implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Chiudo earned a BS in pure and industrial chemistry from the University of Nigeria and a Master’s of Science in environmental technology and management from the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

David Borman

David Borman, PhD

David works to highlight the innovation and scientific successes of Instrumental Access awardees. In telling these scientists’ stories, he helps to show the global impact of the Seeding Labs mission.

Prior to joining Seeding Labs, David worked as the alumni affairs director for Brevard College in North Carolina and managed communications for Kids Center for Pediatric Therapies, a nonprofit in Louisville, Kentucky, that provides services to children with special needs.

David earned his PhD in English from the University of Miami. He holds an MA in English from the University of Louisville and a BA in English from Bellarmine University.

Christine Srivastava

Christina Viola Srivastava

Vice President of Programs

Christina is responsible for program development, planning, and implementation at Seeding Labs. 

Christina has experience as a research program evaluator and science policy analyst. She’s held roles with the consulting firm Abt Associates, Inc. and the Science and Technology Policy Institute.

Prior to entering the consulting world, Christina worked for the Boston-area nonprofits Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and Urban Ecology Institute. She holds an undergraduate degree in biology from Swarthmore College

Rick Sherman

Rick Sherman

Vice President of Philanthropy

Rick is responsible for the fundraising activities at Seeding Labs, engaging with corporations, foundations, and individuals to increase their financial and equipment donations to the organization.

Prior to joining Seeding Labs, Rick spent 17 years working in a similar capacity at a number of science-focused organizations, including Keystone Symposia, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation (now the Science History Institute).

Rick earned an MS in Finance from Drexel University, and a BS in Paper Science and Engineering from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

David Qualter

Vice President of Operations

David is responsible for global logistics at Seeding Labs, overseeing the efficient movement of lab equipment worldwide.

He joined Seeding Labs from Image Arts, a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, where he provided logistics direction for the company with $110 million in annual sales.

He brings 20 years of supply chain management experience with in-depth knowledge of international logistics, warehouse execution, and distribution center operations.

Originally an art student at Southeastern Massachusetts University, David now uses his creative talents to develop logistics strategies that produce operational efficiencies and quality customer service.

Melissa P. Wu, PhD

Melissa P. Wu, PhD

Chief Executive Officer

Please direct speaking requests to

As the CEO of Seeding Labs, Dr. Melissa P. Wu connects scientists and institutions around the world to help reduce barriers to scientific discovery.

Part scientist, part engineer, and part facilitator, Melissa brings strategic insight and rigorous methodology to her work, together with a dedication to helping people.

Melissa is driven by two overarching values: that scientific research is a critical tool for improving human lives, and that research thrives and we as a community make the best discoveries when we foster diversity in perspectives, approaches, and ideas. Joining these two ideas has given her a career focus on creating opportunities for people of all backgrounds to engage in scientific research.

Prior to being named CEO of Seeding Labs in 2019,
Melissa served as Senior Vice President of Operations. She revamped Seeding Labs’ Instrumental Access program to increase its efficiency while expanding its impact.

Melissa’s previous positions at the Harvard Office for
Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership and the BioBuilder Educational Foundation helped spread scientific knowledge to students nationwide.

She is proud to have mentored many students through
programs at the Journal of Emerging Investigators, Harvard, Boston Children’s Hospital, and MIT.

Melissa earned a PhD in Cellular and Developmental
Biology from Harvard University and holds an SB in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.