Turning obstacles to opportunities: How one researcher is advancing his fight against antimicrobial resistance

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Pictured above: Thanks to Instrumental Access, faculty members at the Université d’Abomey-Calavi have dramatically increased their output of research and publications with additional lab infrastructure in place.

In a year when access to labs was minimal, when daily life was (and continues to be) upended, it is almost impossible to maintain a rigorous, scientific workflow. But not for Victorien Tamègnon Dougnon, PhD, pictured at right.

“I see obstacles as opportunities,” says Dr. Dougnon, a lecturer in the Department of Human Biology at Benin’s oldest university, the Université d’Abomey-Calavi (UAC). “I took this time to work on my projects, to work on my research activities, and I can say that the last two years were very very productive.”

And his persistence is getting noticed. In April, he was recognized with the 2020 Young African Researcher Award, an honor given by the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology of Egypt.

The award comes as Dr. Dougnon has expanded his duties. As a leading scientist in the multidisciplinary Research Unit in Applied Microbiology and Pharmacology of natural substances, Dr. Dougnon focuses on the surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in humans and animals.

In August 2020, his lab was outfitted with more than 3 tons of Instrumental Access equipment, helping transform his workflow into a highly productive, award-winning stream of quality research. With a newly expanded technical capacity for DNA extraction and analysis, Dr. Dougnon could complete a slate of projects related to his studies of antimicrobial resistance.

Dr. Dougnon and colleagues inspect Instrumental Access equipment as it arrives on the campus at UAC

His research is already finding paths forward to improve the health of children in Benin and beyond. In a recently published article, Dr. Dougnon and his colleagues at UAC analyzed local plants that are traditionally used to treat diarrhea in children. Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children younger than 5 worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, diarrheal disease is responsible for half a million deaths among these children each year.

By analyzing local antidiarrheal plant-based medicines, Dr. Dougnon and colleagues can tell if these traditional cures contain harmful compounds as well, potentially bringing some scientific certainty to these life-threatening situations.

Dr. Victorien Dougnon
"We are now able to explain how these medicinal plants work because Instrumental Access equipment has enhanced our capability to perform tests in our lab on campus."

Dr. Victorien Dougnon
Université D’Abomey-Calavi

In addition to ensuring that these medicines are safe for children to consume, Dr. Dougnon is furthering the mission of his research unit at UAC: fighting antibiotic resistance. These same traditional medicines are also full of potential to fight bacterial infections, and Dr. Dougnon is ready to see what potential they have for stemming the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

“We are now able to explain how these medicinal plants work because Instrumental Access equipment has enhanced our capability to perform tests in our lab on campus,” says Dr. Dougnon. “It is a big support for us in Africa. In this country, where research facilities are not so well funded, we appreciate the support that Seeding Labs offers.”

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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 media@seedinglabs.org

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.