Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net
Two years from now, the second European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP-II) programme will kick off and expectations seems high
Nkandu Luo, Minister of Local Government and Housing Authority of Zambia outlined some of the expectations at the High Level conference on the partnership in Cape Town on 5th November
Although the partnership between EDCTP and Africa scientists was described as unique, powerful and progressive with visible results in EDCTP-I, Luo said more defined, strengthened partnership were expected in EDCTP-II.
What then are some of the expectations? Much improved partnership between the private sector, African Governments and EDCTP, with more commitment for funding to the EDCTP, more clinical trials and using the available opportunities for the benefit of the programme in Africa.
However, it was suggested that it would be important for African governments to quantify in monetary terms their contributions to clinical trials heavily funded by Europe and America.
That way, African governments would not be dismissed as contributing nothing to medical research happening in their own countries.
Scientists also suggested that EDCTP required more visibility at country and continental level, because even if it has invested so much in Africa, €400 million in EDCTP-I, it is not well known. The media could be a critical partner to achieve EDCTP visibility.
To avoid backlashes, in view of the sensitivity of the clinical trials, there is need to bring on board social scientists who should participate not only in the trials but research designs and protocols in EDCTP-II.
It was also suggested that since research subjects are human beings, the communities must be brought into the planning, design of the research protocols in EDCTP-II.
EDCTP-I invested heavily in the establishment and strengthening of Research and Ethics Committees in many African countries, but African scientists said EDCTP-II needs further investment in this area locally through Ministries responsible for research. This is key to avoid abuse of research subjects.
EDCTP and African Governments should develop a robust strategy in translating research result from documents gathering dust to on shelves to healthcare delivery in the second programme.
And lastly, the budgetary allocation for EDCTP-II, which is potentially one billion Euros, may need to be target; vaccine development, innovative treatment regimes for HIV and Tuberculosis as well as prevention therapies especially those targeting women and children such Microbicides.
It should also target investment in research of infectious diseases and other conditions interacting with HIV such as cancers.