NIH awards $3.3 million grant to tropical disease researcher

Kojo Mensa-Wilmot
Kojo Mensa-Wilmot

KENNESAW, Ga. (Apr 9, 2021) — Kojo Mensa-Wilmot, professor of molecular and cellular biology in Kennesaw State University’s College of Science and Mathematics, has received a five-year, $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue his work on human African trypanosomiasis, a disease found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mensa-Wilmot’s research is geared toward understanding the basic biology and developing a drug to cure the disease. He is a globally recognized expert on Trypanosoma brucei, the single-celled organism that causes the disease. Nearly 60 million people are at risk for human African trypanosomiasis. Tsetse flies spread the disease-causing parasite among human and animal populations in rural Africa through bites, according to the World Health Organization.

“Our research is bringing the day closer when the suffering and death of patients with human African trypanosomiasis — which is often referred to as sleeping sickness — is greatly reduced,” said Mensa-Wilmot. “This NIH grant is important for the next phase of research. I am grateful to have this support for five years as we progress toward more effective treatments and a better understanding of the chemical biology of trypanosomes.”

Mensa-Wilmot’s cellular biology research will serve as a foundation for treating other diseases caused by other parasites related to trypanosomes.

Mensa-Wilmot became dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Kennesaw State in August 2020. The NIH funding supports research in collaboration with Professor Michael Pollastri through 2026.


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu

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