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Dr. Kevin Tidgewell Explores Possible Partnerships In Cuba

Dr. Kevin Tidgewell and Roberto Clemente, Jr.Dr. Kevin Tidgewell, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry in the Mylan School of Pharmacy, has returned from a trip to Cuba where he explored the possibilities of academic partnerships.

Tidgewell was one of 26 Pittsburghers-including elected officials, academics and sports, corporate and business leaders-on the November "citizen diplomacy" trip arranged by Lisa Valanti, president of the U.S.-Cuba Sister Cities Association.

"Our goal was to pair people and institutions with their counterparts in Cuba, trusting that, over shared interests, many of the stereotypes that people had of each other would be challenged and changed," Valanti said.

Potential partners include the University of Havana and the University of Matanzas–a Pittsburgh sister-city also on three rivers, east of Havana.

Tidgewell, whose research focuses on marine natural products from cyanobacteria as possible medications for central nervous system disorders, addiction and chronic pain, is excited about the possibilities stemming from his trip.

"My focus for the trip was to build collaborations and contacts to conduct future research on the cyanobacteria of Cuba, as it has some of the best-preserved reef in the Caribbean," said Tidgewell, who toured the Natural Products Research Center and Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, among other facilities.

University of HavanaBesides meeting with professors in chemistry, pharmacy and marine bioproducts at the University of Havana, Tidgewell talked with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and MINREX, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"They're interested in figuring out where and how collaborations could occur," said Tidgewell, who would like to share Duquesne's access to high-tech equipment such as mass spectrometry and work with scientists exploring Cuba's biodiversity.

"No one's ever done my type of natural products research in Cuba," Tidgewell said. "There may be a chance to find something unique there."

Duquesne colleagues in every school across the University might find ways to partner with Cuban counterparts, Tidgewell noted. He already has shared information about his trip within the pharmacy school and plans to talk more widely with interested faculty across the University.

This was the first Pittsburgh delegation to Cuba since Obama declared a change in the U.S. policy toward Cuba.

To learn more about Dr. Kevin Tidgwell's lab, click here to watch a video.

Duquesne University

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