Systems Biology Ireland researchers lead innovative collaboration, pave the way for treating childhood Leukaemia in Tanzania using ‘next-generation’ gene sequencing

[DUBLIN, 15 April 2021 @ 10am] A recent funding award from The Little Princess Trust, UK, in partnership with CCLG has enabled researchers at Systems Biology Ireland (SBI) to launch a novel and transformative collaboration to treat and cure children with leukaemia in Tanzania.

An award of £78,303.03 (approximately €90,390) was granted to Professor Jonathan Bond, UCD Brendan McGonnell Professor of Paediatric Molecular Haemato-Oncology at SBI, officially announced in January 2021. Prof. Bond and Clinical Fellow, Dr. Peter McCarthy, plan to use these funds to extend a long-standing collaboration with an international NGO, WeAreTLM. The project is titled SALAMA,  which stands for Studying Acute LeukaemiA Mutations in Africa, and is also the Swahili word for "safe and well". Also involved in the collaboration are Genuity Science, based in Dublin, Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin, Prof. Brendan Loftus at UCD, and the SEREN social enterprise from Oxford University in the UK, as well as an extensive team at Muhimbili National Hospital in Tanzania. The grant will be split 50/50 between Ireland and Tanzania.

The funds are primarily earmarked for a large scale investigation into the genetics of childhood blood cancers in Eastern Africa, using a comprehensive form of testing called “next-generation sequencing”.  According to Bond, this is hugely important because these tests not only reveal the genetic mutations present in the cancer cells, but it would also be the first study of its kind on childhood leukaemia patients in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr. Trish Scanlan, COO of WeAreTLM, has been working on the clinical side in Tanzania for more than 10 years. Scanlan is enthusiastic about what this collaboration will mean for the future of cancer care in Tanzania.

“This will be completely transformative,” Scanlan said. She explained how the genetic “snapshots” will help the team to predict treatment going forward, leading to an ultimate goal of being able to offer the same standard of care, and same survival rate, to children with leukaemia in Tanzania, as there is for children in Ireland and other wealthier countries.

Due to the efforts of Scanlan and others, childhood cancer treatment is currently free of charge to all patients in Tanzania. Bond and his team are confident that any improvements in leukaemia knowledge garnered from this study will translate directly to the patients, without worry of financial constraints.

Systems Biology Ireland (SBI) at University College Dublin investigates new therapeutic approaches to disease, with a focus on cancer at a systems level. Researchers in SBI use a combination of traditional “wet” lab and computational modeling approaches to understand cellular signaling networks. SBI has a staff of ~60 group leaders, researchers, students and administrators from all over the world.  

WeAreTLM (TLM meaning “Tumaini La Maisha” Tanzania and “Their Lives Matter” Ireland and UK) is an international NGO providing cancer care to children in Tanzania, free of charge. For more information or to donate, go to

The Little Princess Trust is a charitable organisation that uses hair donations and fundraising monies sent to manufacture and fit real hair wigs for children and young people who have lost their hair to cancer. Established in 2006, the Little Princess Trust has supplied over 10,000 wigs to children and young people and has committed circa £12 million into ground-breaking childhood cancer research. For more information or to donate, go to

“As a charity with a strong focus on improving outcomes for children with cancer we are very proud to have funded this exciting and extremely important work. This is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through good collaborative working of dedicated experts.”
– Wendy Tarplee-Morris, The Little Princess Trust


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For more information, please contact Maryann Kelly, SEA, Administration and Communication, Systems Biology Ireland at 083 061 2997 or