FIRST (Fighting Infections through Research, Science, and Technology)

The FIRST program, funded jointly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carlos Slim Health Institute, aims to speed the development of new tools and technologies that will address three diseases that place a huge health and economic burden on neglected populations in Central and South America: Chagas’ disease, dengue and onchocerciasis.

Led by scientists at UCSF Global Health Sciences, UC Berkeley and partner institutions including SSI, the two-year program focuses in Mesoamerica, which comprises the Southern states of Mexico and Central America from Guatemala to Panama. A significant population, mainly of indigenous descent, live in poverty in these countries, making them vulnerable to illness and death.

Our FIRST project portfolio includes 3 major components:

  1. ICT TOOLS: SSI will develop an ICT tool kit for dengue surveillance (DENGUE ALERT), dengue clinical patient management decision support (DENGUE SEPECILIST) and laboratory information management for dengue samples and results (DENGUE LAB).
    *Read more about the ICT Tools project on UCSF’s Global Health Sciences page here.
  2. LOW COST DIAGNOSTICS: SSI will be working on a new low cost dengue NS1 diagnostic as well as the continuation of the pediatric dengue cohort study, which provides critical samples and epidemiological data to all of the dengue projects in FIRST.
  3. COMMUNITY VECTOR CONTROL: SSI is a partner in DENGUE CHAT/DENGUE TORPEDO, a web and cell phone-based application developed by Dr James Holston from the Social Apps Lab at UC Berkeley in collaboration with Drs Coloma and Harris to motivate community members to remove dengue vector breeding sites (

By developing and testing a set of affordable new tools, drugs, and prevention campaigns, the FIRST program will not only contribute to preventing, diagnosing and treating tropical diseases, but can also serve as a model for other regions of the world affected by the same ailments.

*Read more about FIRST in the project press release for UCSF here and for FIRST SSI here.