21 August 2019

The 2018 Land Rover Bursary winners complete their ‘Mobile Malaria’ project having driven across four countries in sub-Saharan Africa in a specially converted Land Rover Discovery

  • All-terrain laboratory: Land Rover Bursary team uses modified Discovery to show how in-the-field genetic analysis could help fight malaria
  • Mobile first: Oxford University researchers with African partners extracted and sequenced DNA in remote locations to show how portable tech could fight spread of the disease
  • One-off: Bespoke model from Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations celebrates 30 years of Discovery as the world’s most versatile full-sized premium SUV
  • Long-term partners: Annual Land Rover Bursary awarded in association with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) ­– Land Rover’s longest-standing humanitarian and conservation partner
  • Next bursary winners announced: All women team awarded 2019 Land Rover Bursary to investigate how small-scale farmers in East Africa fight fall armyworm, a new rapidly spreading pest
  • 2020 Land Rover Bursary: Applications for the 2020 Bursary, supported by the new Land Rover Defender, open 1 September 2019. Click here for details:
  • Watch the film: See the Discovery supporting the team here:

The Land Rover Discovery has celebrated its 30th anniversary by playing the role of mobile laboratory on a pioneering drive across sub-Saharan Africa as part of the latest Land Rover Bursary.


The Mobile Malaria Project team crossed four countries in a specially converted version of Land Rover’s most versatile full-sized SUV. They successfully tested the latest portable genetic sequencing technology in remote off-grid locations for the first time – even generating data for their partners while driving.

Driving a Discovery developed by Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations and led by Dr George Busby, the team worked with local scientists to extract and analyse DNA in remote locations, generating useful genetic data within hours. Scientists usually have to wait weeks for data after obtaining, preparing and dispatching samples to overseas laboratories for analysis.

The 2018 Land Rover Bursary, awarded in partnership with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), supported the team of three Oxford University researchers on a 7,350km (4,567 mile) trip across Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya.

Malaria affects millions of people all over the world every year. At Jaguar Land Rover we’re passionate about using our technology to help experts in their field make a real difference and the Land Rover Bursary is a great example of this. We’re really proud the unique Discovery developed by our Special Vehicle Operations team has helped prove that remote DNA sequencing is possible even in hard-to-reach locations.

Dr Steve Iley
Jaguar Land Rover’s Chief Medical Officer

The one-off Discovery was equipped as a mobile genetic sequencing laboratory, making full-use of its 1,137-litre load space with a fridge/freezer to safely store scientific supplies, a bespoke load space configuration system to hold the team’s equipment and an on-board expedition battery. A purpose-built dual sun awning, rescue kit, winch, sand/mud tracks, roof rack and LED night driving lamps completed the list of modifications. In addition, the scientific legwork was done by a series of compact genetic sequencing machines, MinIONs.

The Discovery was the perfect tool for the job. It took the different terrains in its stride and carried all our kit with ease and performed as a mobile laboratory. Without the support of the Land Rover Bursary we simply wouldn’t have been able to make this important step of proving the viability of remote DNA sequencing in the field of malaria prevention.

Dr George Busby
Project Leader

Malaria is the third-biggest killing infectious disease in the world and 90 per cent of cases occur in Africa. The distribution of drug resistance in the parasites that cause malaria and insecticide resistance in the mosquitoes that transmit it, varies across the continent, and genetic analysis is one way of providing important information on where resistance lies for local control programmes. Identifying and understanding the most effective insecticides against local mosquito populations, and the most successful treatments against the parasites they carry, are crucial for future efforts to control the spread of malaria.

During the two-month trip, the team demonstrated it is possible to train people to use technology and to generate information about the amount of resistance in a population from genetic data using only the equipment carried with them in the Discovery – proving the value of regional sequencing and that such processes are no longer restricted to large centralised laboratories.

Fresh from this success, Land Rover has announced the winners of the 2019 bursary, an all women team, who will travel through remote rural East Africa with the aid of a bespoke Discovery. They will gather evidence on the factors influencing farmers’ adoption of pest management technologies, focusing on fall armyworm, a highly destructive pest threatening food security.

In addition, applications for the 2020 Land Rover Bursary – which will be the first to use the new Defender will open on 1 September. The closing date for entries is 30 November 2019.

Notes to Editors

About the Land Rover Bursary

The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) is Land Rover’s longest-standing humanitarian and conservation partner and the Land Rover Bursary seeks to support the advancement of geographical knowledge. The annual initiative provides £30,000 and the use of a vehicle to make a challenging journey with geographical purpose that promotes the wider understanding or enjoyment of geography. It is now in its twelfth year. Previous projects have visited extreme locations ranging from the arid heat of Jordan, to investigate water management in the region, to the sub 40-degree temperatures of Siberia –  the coldest place in the northern hemisphere.

To find out more about the Land Rover Bursary or begin an application, click here:


About the Mobile Malaria Project

As winners of the 2018 Land Rover Bursary, Dr George Busby from the University of Oxford's Big Data Institute, Jason Hendry and Dr Isaac Ghinai drove 7,350km across Africa from March to May 2019 to document current innovations and challenges in eliminating malaria – a parasitic infectious disease transmitted between humans by mosquitoes.

Using a specially modified Land Rover Discovery, and working with local scientists in Namibia, Zambia, and Kenya, the team aimed to learn about the current status of malaria in three countries and to work collaboratively to test the feasibility of mobile genetic sequencing technology. The work performed by the Mobile Malaria Project has laid the foundations for their African-based colleagues to use portable genetic sequencing machines in their research on both parasite and mosquito populations. In the future, genetic data generated on a number of different platforms, including the portable genetic sequencing devices used by the Mobile Malaria Project, has the potential to be used to monitor and map resistance to insecticides and antimalarial drugs – two of the greatest threats to controlling the disease.


About Land Rover

Since 1948 Land Rover has been manufacturing authentic 4x4s that represent true ‘breadth of capability’ across the model range. Defender, Discovery, Discovery Sport, Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque each define the world’s SUV sectors, with 80 per cent of this model range exported to over 100 countries.

The Land Rover Bursary was first awarded by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in 2007, offering funding and the use of a Land Rover vehicle, as part of a partnership that stretches back more than 35 years. The bursary is awarded every year to an enthusiastic team who undertake a journey for which a Land Rover is integral, to promote a wider understanding and enjoyment of geography and to take the recipients beyond their normal limits and boundaries.

The road to ‘Destination Zero’

Jaguar Land Rover is on a journey to Destination Zero – a world of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion. Our ambition is to make our societies safer and healthier and our environment cleaner through relentless innovation, adapting our products and services to the rapidly-changing world around us. Find out more here:

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