Only a third of research funding is actually spent in Africa

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Esther Nakkazi
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


It is hoped that funding for the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) phase II, which runs from 2014-2024 will increase from €400 million to €1 billion.

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, while opening the high level meeting, in Cape Town, yesterday morning said  ‘Horizon2020’ would allocate €1 billion from a total research budget of €9 billion to EDCTP2.

But, while these funds are being requested, there is a recession in Europe, and thus the question, why should the European tax payers increase research funding to eliminate diseases in developing countries?

The answer is obvious but an illusion according Nirj Deva, a member of the European Parliament. “It is because it will create jobs in Europe.”

Trevor Mundel, the president of the Global Health program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was blunt about it.

At the EDCTP2 meeting in Cape Town, Mundel said investment in Research and Development for Poverty Related and Neglected Disease (PRNDs) created 13000 European jobs from 2002-2010.

For you who wish to know why the developed world spends so much on research in Africa and on diseases that do not exist any more in their countries, it is to create jobs.

But it is a win-win situation sometimes that would help Europe get out of the recession and also build capacity of African researchers in Africa.

For instance, it is a staggering fact that by spending on research to wipe out meningitis aids, malaria and TB in developing countries, every Euro spent will create employment in Europe and secondary employment in Africa said Deva.

Studies show that for every €3 spent by EU governments in research in Africa, €2  are reinvested back into European labs, universities and companies and create jobs and growth for their economies.

That means only a third of total amounts announced by EU for the funding research in Africa, is actually spent in Africa. For instance if €1 billion Euros was allocated for EDCTP2, only a third would be spent in Africa.

In a way it is in the interest of the funders, in this case the EU. Maybe that is why African governments do not care to match the funding, which would translate into €2 billion in case the EDCTP2 is approved by the EU parliament?

But who is the loser, the Africans, they never get to own anything from the research carried out on African people. At least the Europeans create jobs for their people.

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Q&A with South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology official

MunyaradziMakoni

Munyaradzi Makoni
Freelance journalist


What are your expectations of this meeting?

The event aims to highlight the importance of the partnership between Africa and the Europe in undertaking clinical trials on poverty-related diseases on the continent, but most importantly, it is about building our own capacity to conduct clinical trials. So we see the programme to be one of those that will bring us closer to solving our diseases burden. We are expecting participation by high level government representatives from Africa, Europe and Asia as well as pharmaceutical companies and foundations and philanthropic organisations. We expect these stakeholders to pledge financial support to the second phase of EDCTP.

 What areas do you think needs to be strengthened in the EDCTP phase 2?

Capacity building, we are still far from bridging the capacity gap, both in terms of researchers and research facilities because of decades of under-investment in R&D. There is also a need to broaden the focus beyond TB, HIV/AIDS and Malaria. We are now beginning to see a trend of the so-called rich-man’s diseases becoming more of a problem, so this may also need to be looked at. Lastly, we also need to ensure that this initiative runs in partnership with initiatives such as African Network for Drugs and Diagnostic Innovation (ANDI).

Mmboneni Muofhe, South Africa’s Deputy Director General for International Cooperation and Resources at South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology
Picture: Courtesy

Has South Africa has achieved something during first phase of the programme?

A good number of our students have been trained and researchers have enhanced their skills. Also, 18 of our institutions that participate in this programme received over €32 million (ZAR400 million) during the first phase.

What sort of support has the South Africa’s Department of Science given to the programme?

We have been involved in ensuring that the African offices of EDCTP are situated in South Africa at the Medical Research Council in Cape Town. We also provide seed and co-investment funding to South African based researchers participating in the programme. We have an excellent relationship with both our local office and headquarters.

What do you think other Sub-Saharan countries can learn from South Africa with regards to this programme?

It is not a matter of other Sub-Saharan countries learning from South Africa but us learning from each other. Our European partners are also learning from us as Sub-Saharan Africa while we also learn from each other. The one thing though, that I think other African countries can do which has been central to our success, is to assist researchers with seed and co-investment funding.

A lot of money is spent through travel, communication, workshops, training and other critical areas in order to get research funds. As the saying goes, you spend money to make money. This is something we have been able to do for South African based researchers who approached us and it can make a difference between one getting funds and missing the boat.

Africa: Invest and own your research, give it power to drive your agenda

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Esther Nakkazi
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


With soft captivating drum beats from the amaAmbush Marinba band, spicy food and South African wine freely flowing by the poolside, the EDCTP conference kicked off yesterday evening with attendants of who-is-who players in clinical trials present.

They included African, European and international representatives from policy, industry, non-governmental organisations, product development partners and the research community.

Since this is a consultative meeting aimed at launching preparations for the second EDCTP programme, I decided to find out some of the key expectations of the attendees from this meeting.

Investing in research and owning it will give Africa the power to drive the agenda and build capacity for research.
Photo credit: EDCTP

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, in a key note welcome said she expects great things from the gathering, real progress in establishing the second phase- EDCTP2.

This marks an important step in consultations between European and African public and private stakeholders on EDCTP2, and in rising ambitious renewed support for the next phase, said Geoghegan-Quinn who is also visiting Africa for the first time.

Line Matthiessen-Guyader, the head of Unit, Infectious Diseases and Public Health, expects the conference to get more African governments into EDCTP and invest in it as well as all European countries that have capacity to be part of it. She also wants to see more public-private partnerships.

“We have the Gates Foundation but they cannot do this alone. We need stronger involvement from industries, governments and it should not be a top-down approach,” said Matthiessen-Guyader.

Salim Abdool Karim the president of the South African Medical Research Council expects more partnerships to be built out of this unique venture that he described as a ‘joint’ venture

“New drugs, treatments and research come out of partnerships. Science is collaborative and needs partnerships. The difficultly is in sustaining them,” said Karim.

Sheila Tlou, the Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for East and Southern Africa wants African countries to own the research so that it is relevant to Africa, but this should be a shared responsibility.

“If we raise our own resources then we shall move our won research agenda and we will benefit more.”

Michael Makanga the Chairman EDCTP South Africa hopes that all Africa countries increase commitment and have active participation. His wish is for of them to be like South Africa that matches the funding.

If all African countries could match the EDCTP funding in clinical trials ‘not in the sense of a euro for a euro but contribute something,” hopes Makanga. Africa would own its research, giving it power to drive the agenda and build capacity for research.

It’s serious business time, ladies and gentlemen

MunyaradziMakoni

Munyaradzi Makoni
Freelance journalist


I find lack of funding as one of the most common complaints in research circles, but lack of political will towards implementation of policies is another of the top grumbles when it comes to research and development in Africa.

If we are to use today’s attendance alone as a yardstick, the motley mixture of African, European policy-makers and scientists meeting for the second programme of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), political will could turn out to be the least of worries.

Which scientists would come to Cape Town and drown in the tastes of one of the finest wines on earth, forgetting their objective for traveling? Can a politician afford to be at this one-day meeting and forget that the urgent business is to link politics and science in finding ways and weapons to fight HIV, malaria and tuberculosis?

In such an august gathering it is in the mingling and sharing of high profile delegates that relationships get forged and alliances cemented.

So, should we safely say political will is a forgone conclusion by looking at the 180 plus guest list? No, they say, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Isn’t it?

South Africa’s newly appointed minister of science and technology, Derek Hanekom, will shortly deliver a welcome address at the opening session.

The EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Ms Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and the EDCTP High Representative and former Prime Minister of Mozambique, Dr Pascoal Mocumbi. South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, will also have their minutes of fame on the podium.

Keynote addresses will be delivered by Sheila Tlou, Director of the UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) Regional Support Team for East and Southern Africa, and Trevor Mundel, President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Programme.

Apart from policy-makers, there are also be product development partners and representatives of industry, non-governmental organisations and the research community.

The conference will also celebrate the 15thanniversary of the signing of the European Union-South Africa Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement.

Currently, EDCTP is a partnership between 16 European countries, the European Commission and sub-Saharan Africa.

Under the first EDCTP programme, around €400 million was invested in clinical trials, capacity building and networking activities in sub-Saharan Africa.  At the end of 2011, 55 clinical trials had been funded. Eight of the completed EDCTP projects have resulted in improved policy guidelines or recommendations for clinical practice in Africa.

The site visits in Cape Town tomorrow will offer an eye opener at EDCTP-funded research on TB and HIV.

As delegates will continue to mix and mingle even on the sites visits, should we continue crying about lack of political will? Maybe. But what I know is that it is serious business time for the delegates

 

A conference to behold

Gert Onne van de Klashorst
Communications Officer, EDCTP


We welcome you to the much anticipated Cape Town conference on the second programme of the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). This high-level meeting will be an important step in the consultations between African and international stakeholders on this second research funding programme that will run from 2014 till 2024

The conference that will take place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) on Monday, 5 November 2012, will be attended by more than 200 invited representatives; a mixture from policy, industry, patient organisations, non-governmental organisations and the scientific community – mostly Africans and Europeans

The Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).
Picture Credit: EDCTP

 

If your are unable to be in the legislative capital of South Africa in the extreme southwest part of the country on the Atlantic Ocean for this meeting, you can capture the proceedings through this blog and the internet video that will transmit sessions live

The South African Department of Science and Technology, the European Union and EDCTP are hosting the meeting that also marks the 15th anniversary of the Scientific and Technological Cooperation agreement between the Republic of South Africa and the European Union

The conference will be addressed by, among others, the South African Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and by the EDCTP High-Representative and former Prime Minister of Mozambique, Dr Pascoal Mocumbi

The discussions will focus on needs and expectations of all stakeholders regarding EDCTP-II. The meeting will also offer a platform for the endorsement of the programme and to announce commitment, especially of European and African countries. Moreover, there is need for close collaboration with the private sector, in particular with industry and private research funding organisations

In the coming days, enjoy the interesting blog posts on the topics discussed at the conference which will be provided by independent SciDev.Net journalists

To follow the live video of the sessions on 5 November, please follow this link:

http://results.antfarm.co.za/edctp/November_2012_01

EDCTP setting the trend in training African scientists

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Esther Nakkazi
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


While many biomedical studies are held in Sub-Saharan Africa, its researchers complain of low levels of engagement of such studies even if they are tagged as ‘collaborative’.

Usually, African researchers are not fully engaged and are given limited leadership roles, but this is due to many factors including lack of capacity, no equipment, limited specialized laboratories, no mentorship and a few experienced personnel.

Most of them also lack the skills and international competitiveness for larger research grants.

It is frustrating even for us African journalists, when you see and know that a study has been concluded in your community, but you cannot get an interview with local scientists because the principal investigator is based out of Africa.

Yes, there are rules to this game, but it is also obvious that African scientists need more training, which will enable them build their own research teams and attract major research grants.  On the same track, African governments need to invest more money into research.

The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) programme runs a highly successful Senior Fellowship scheme aimed at developing African scientific leadership and mentorship.

In this model, the EDCTP senior fellows get grants and build research teams made up of students. They integrate training and supervision of these students at Masters, post-doc and PhD levels in their projects.

Some senior fellows with their students have been remarkably successful, like Mark Nicol from South Africa whose study results contributed to a report submitted to the World Health Organisation that led to the recommendation of Xpert MTB/RIF as a replacement for smear microscopy as the first line diagnostic test for tuberculosis in areas with high prevalence of MDR-TB or HIV in 2010.

Another is Stephen B. Kennedy, researcher from UL-PIRE Africa Center, University of Liberia, who led a project that trained a cadre of researchers in HIV/AIDS research and it laid the foundation for HIV biomedical research in Liberia.

From 2004, when the Senior Fellowship scheme was introduced, 45 senior fellowships have been granted by EDCTP to scientists from various African countries. Eighteen of these have completed their projects and all of them are still working in the research field in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In May 2012, the EDCTP General Assembly approved an additional six Senior Fellowships. We hope more collaborative researches that take on such a model to develop the research capacity in Africa. We shall hear more about this at the upcoming EDCTP in Cape Town on 5–6 November. Watch this space for proceedings form the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Still much to do for Sub-Saharan Africa’s health

MunyaradziMakoni

Munyaradzi Makoni
Freelance journalist


Perhaps, what plagues the minds of many in Sub-Saharan Africa is what still needs to be done to ensure that the three main poverty-related diseases of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are resolutely conquered.

This will be one of the underlying questions when the consultation of African and international stakeholders on the second programme of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) gets underway  in Cape Town on 5-6 November.

When it started in 2003, the EDCTP’s aim was to accelerate the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines, microbicides and diagnostics mainly against the poverty-related diseases.  But things seem not to have changed considerably as was, perhaps, the anticipation. The soul searching questions will now include how to do this better.

While taking stock and giving grounded focus for the EDCTP’s second phase the programme of action has to be clearly spelt out at this meeting.

What lessons were learnt from EDCTP-I, what direction the second phase will take, how committed are European and African countries and exploring private sector participation particularly philanthropic organisations.

The second phase of the EDCTP programme is expected to start in January 2014 as part of Horizon 2020.

The scope of second EDCTP is expected to include other neglected infectious diseases and carry collaborative research with other developing countries outside sub-Saharan Africa when possible and necessary.

A case study by Michael Makanga, EDCTP’s Director South-South Cooperation and Head of Africa Office, has shown that the establishment of four regionally located ‘Networks of Excellence’ for conducting clinical trials and promoting research in Sub-Saharan Africa could enabling advances in the prevention and treatment of HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.

EDCTP-I brought improved knowledge and capacity and is bringing in quality of clinical research and practice in Sub-Saharan Africa. This has raised the bar for interventions for Europe and developing countries to jointly work together more effectively. Better things are expected from this relationship.