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A new initiative to build scientific capacity in Africa has named its first three research and training networks following a competitive selection process. "The establishment of regional scientific research centers is in direct response to demands within Africa for more and better university-based instructors," said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation.

The 3 MSI Institutes and 5 MSI Nuclei in Chile released their first annual reports this month, each of them demonstrating excellent progress in research, new program design, outreach and other MSI objectives. The Millennium Institute for Fundamental and Applied Biology, hosted by three institutions in Santiago, reports "decisive progress" in each of the four main areas of emphasis. The Center for Scientific Studies (CECS), founded in Santiago in 1984, moved south to Valdivia in 2000 partly to support scientific and cultural decentralization in the country.

It was inspiring to see the next generation of African leaders beginning to emerge through science, said Phillip Griffiths, chair of the Princeton-based Science Initiative Group, SIG - leading scientists who share a passion for fostering science in developing countries. He was speaking at the close of a four-day Regional Initiative in Science and Education conference held in South Africa this month.

The Southern African Biochemistry and Informatics for Natural Products network aims to train both PhD and MSc scientists from 2009 onwards, through research in the biochemistry and chemistry of natural products, including bioinformatics as an essential tool for data management and the elucidation of structure and function. Research will focus on increasing the understanding of useful plants or fungi (such as mushrooms and tea crops) through the study of screening assays, biosynthetic pathways, gene expression, modes of action, synthetic production, and genetic diversity.

A year ago, the Science Initiative Group reported on the establishment of the Regional Initiative in Science and Education (RISE), which provides Ph.D. and M.S. training in science and engineering at networks of universities in sub-Saharan Africa. Read SIG annual report here.