Instrumental Access 2021

Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador

Department of Biological Sciences

Fighting infectious diseases in Ecuador

  • The staff of the Center for Research on Health in Latin America at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador

    The staff of the Center for Research on Health in Latin America at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador

  • Students working in the Biological Sciences lab at PUCE

    Students working in the Biological Sciences lab at PUCE

  • COVID-19 diagnostics lab at PUCE, where scientists analyzed 10% of the country's molecular COVID-19 tests

    COVID-19 diagnostics lab at PUCE, where scientists analyzed 10% of the country's molecular COVID-19 tests

Meet our Awardee

Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE) was founded in 1946, and its main campus, located in Quito, Ecuador, hosts 13 colleges. The Department of Biological Sciences focuses on training professionals in biological research, including multidisciplinary research at its Center for Research on Health in Latin America (CISeAL).
 
CISeAL is the result of a collaboration between PUCE and the Infectious and Tropical Diseases Institute at Ohio University. The center focuses on increasing the capacity in Ecuador for biomedical and biological research.
 
Within Ecuador, CISeAL has collaborated with the Ministry of Health, the Ecuadorian National Health Institute, and the Malaria Control Service to increase knowledge of neglected and emerging health problems in the Ecuadorian population.

Research Areas

The department’s research interests include antimicrobial resistance, ecosystem health, neglected tropical diseases, and HIV/AIDS.

We would like to extend our work in molecular diagnosis to help Ecuador face the challenges posed by infectious diseases that threaten the health and life quality of the Ecuadorian people, especially those at an economic disadvantage. Instrumental Access equipment will allow our greatly motivated research team to increase its capacity for performing high-quality research and provide our students with better training opportunities.”

—Jaime Costales Cordero, PhD, professor, Center for Research on Health in Latin America, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador

Investing in Diagnostics: Dr. Jaime Costales Cordero

Jaime Costales Cordero, PhD, has seen the Department of Biological Sciences at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE) come a long way. And he knows just how much potential the department has for future research.
 
As an undergraduate at PUCE, Dr. Costales Cordero would shuffle between labs, transporting gels for electrophoresis by bus to the laboratory that had the necessary equipment. In the years since, he has seen the department’s infrastructure strengthen, gaining additional laboratory space and equipment. However, equipment shortages delay progress and complicate teaching.
 
Trained as a molecular biologist, Dr. Costales Cordero focuses his work on neglected tropical diseases, specializing in Chagas disease, an insect-transmitted disease that affects approximately  8 million people in Mexico, Central, and South America. Yet, when the global COVID-19 pandemic found its way to Ecuador, Dr. Costales Cordero was forced to pause his everyday work.
 
Rather than ruminate on the state of his research, Dr. Costales Cordero embraced the challenge that COVID-19 presented. At the early stages of the pandemic, government labs could analyze 200 rt-PCR tests for COVID-19 each day—and they were the only labs authorized to perform the diagnostics. In response, PUCE and Dr. Costales Cordero assembled a team of 10 young scientists, all recent graduates from the Department of Biological Sciences, to perform more tests.
 
“Using our research center’s laboratories, we have performed over 130,000 COVID-19 molecular diagnostic tests. This number constitutes almost 10% of the tests performed in the country during the pandemic,” says Dr. Costales Cordero. “Most of these tests have been performed without any cost to those at an economic disadvantage, and we have supported public hospitals, indigenous communities.”
 
With PUCE’s labs preparing to reopen, Dr. Costales Cordero’s story could stop here. He could have chosen to go back to his normal research on Chagas disease, knowing that he had made a difference in his country’s response to a global health emergency. But he saw a new opportunity.
 
With increased capacity for diagnostics, PUCE is positioned to become a national leader in the molecular diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases. The shift to COVID-19 diagnostics wasn’t a temporary pivot; it opened a new path in his efforts against neglected tropical diseases
 
Taking this path, however, requires a foundation of equipment ready to handle such work. Instrumental Access equipment will support this effort at PUCE, allowing scientists in the newly-formed molecular diagnosis laboratory to perform high-level research on Chagas disease and other insect-borne diseases including malaria, dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya.
 
“I really enjoy the fact that my job allows me to contribute to improving the health and well-being of Ecuadorian people,” says Dr. Costales Cordero. “I feel this is a life mission, and training the new generation of scientists is one of its key elements.”
 
With Instrumental Access equipment coming to PUCE, Dr. Costales Cordero sees more possibilities for training this new generation. With a promising biology and microbiology programs producing newly minted graduates in the field every year, PUCE is positioned to thrive as a leading center of research and training in Ecuador.

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Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador

Instrumental Access equipment will help our efforts to establish a sound and sustainable research enterprise in Ecuador. This will translate into better training and increased research productivity and will motivate us to continue developing our capacity further.”

—Mario J. Grijalva, PhD. Director, Center for Research on Health in Latin America (CISeAL), Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador

About the Department

Location: Quito, Ecuador
Year Established: 1976
Students Impacted Annually:  200 undergraduate, 20 postgraduate

Why Instrumental Access?

The Department’s Center for Research on Health in Latin America (CISeAL) recently formed a molecular diagnosis laboratory to research and diagnose infectious diseases. Instrumental Access equipment will be among the first pieces to occupy this lab, helping scientists to perform high-level research on Chagas disease and other mosquito-transmitted diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Zika, and Chikungunya.

Shipment Status

In preparation
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About Instrumental Access

Instrumental Access empowers scientists in developing countries. It gives them the resources they need to pursue life-changing research and teach the next generation.

To begin, we identify a pipeline of scientific talent. Then we rigorously screen universities and select those with the most potential to advance education and research through Instrumental Access.