Summary of accomplishments
Since 1991, the Fungal Infection Trust (FIT) has made a unique contribution to advancing the science and medicine of fungal diseases. It has
donated over £3,750,000 to research and education, primarily in the UK, with <5% internal costs.
It supports The Aspergillus Website, the world’s most dynamic, encyclopedic and interactive portal for all aspects of the organism and diseases it produces.
Its focus on building one centre of excellence in fungal disease was recognised in 2009 by creation of the NHS National Aspergillosis Centre in Manchester.
It has supported the training of over 25 researchers and practitioners and the publication of over 180 research reports on fungi and disease.
It has supported LIFE (Leading International Fungal Education) which provides a global accessible resource for health professionals on all fungi, and the UK’s first student art competition focused on fungi and fungal disease.
Over recent years there has been an increasing focus on supporting patients and carers with fungal infection, partly through the Patients Website, its associated online community and partly through the National Aspergillosis Centre patient meetings.
The FIT should consider the following as core activities and they should continue and be expanded as resource allows:
In the past the FIT has supported considerable research studies. This activity has been curtailed by lack of resource. Prior studies focused primarily on contributing to the evaluation of new antifungal drugs, resistance in fungi and fungal classification.
There was a major focus on supporting training through research, with many PhDs and MSc students supported partly or completely by the FIT.
Looking forward, it is unlikely that major research studies can be supported, unless income is drastically increased. Co-funding and pump priming/pilot research could be considered with the reasonable prospect that subsequent funding would be forthcoming.
There is a huge need to continue to train young scientists in fungal disease diagnosis and management, as well as research training. The FIT has committed to sponsoring one MSc student on the new Masters program in Medical Mycology through the University of Manchester. With additional funding this aspect of the FIT’s activities should be expanded to include bursaries for other courses (see examples of courses here: www.life-worldwide.org/medical-community/courses-training/).
The FIT should be proactive and reach out to course directors and offer the most useful bursary to attract students who will contribute to the field in the future. The FIT has just committed to developing an online course in microscopy and histology for technicians and pathologists, across the world. This is a unique initiative and will be of immense value to underserved communities. Once developed, it will need extensive marketing to reach individuals who might look for such a resource. It will be a component of the LIFE efforts www.life-worldwide.org/medicalcommunity/courses-training/.
Learning and science is greatly fostered by national and international meetings. The FRT and FIT have contributed to travel awards/scholarships for a large number of young people with a positive impact, based on reports. This is an underutilized resource by the community, possibly because so few individuals know to ask.
The FIT should be more proactive in advertising its travel awards, through community avenues. This will serve as an important ‘advertisement of the FIT’s intentions and provide important visibility externally.
LIFE and languages
Improving the diagnosis and treatment monitoring of fungal infections requires reaching technicians, many of whom do not use English as their first language or at all. It is therefore important to expand the language base of LIFE materials online and already the whole website is in Spanish. Additional key languages required include Arabic, Mandarin, French and Portuguese. It may be necessary to add others such as Russian, Thai and Japanese in the future, but this is not clear currently. To fully market the LIFE resource a series of books is also proposed, if underwritten externally.
Patient resources and support
There is a continuing need for patient education and support. Some specific tools and mechanisms have been made available including an online and smartphone drug interaction database, talks from experts about various aspects of aspergillosis that have been very popular, monthly physical and online patient meetings, online Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn discussion groups, and regional support groups in the UK. Over 1,500 are actively linked to these groups. Suggestions for additional resources have included: a ‘good fungal doctor’ database, telephone helpline, additional drug information leaflets which are more explanatory than the regulatory leaflets. The FIT should be responsive to and foster such initiatives, and consider expanding beyond aspergillosis if resource allows.