Tag Archives: malaria

Why African researchers prefer European funded medical research

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Esther Nakkazi
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net

Throughout the High Level conference on the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership-II (EDCTP2), capacity building for African researchers was a recurrent theme

It was more on increasing and elevating research done in Africa, by African researchers; building their leadership capacity to form their own teams and networks in collaboration with EDCTP.

So, I sought to find out the difference, if at all, between capacity building for African researchers from funding clinical trials by the Americans and Europeans.

Most of the African researchers I spoke to at the EDCTP2 conference in Cape Town, who receive funding from both Americans and Europeans confirmed real capacity building and networking from EDCTP funded activities.

It is, in fact, an integrated part of the EDCTP with short and long term training, building African researchers careers as well as infrastructure development. This is guaranteed and reflected in funding rules for grants and in their governance.

But they described the American funded clinical trials in Africa as Federal Express Research- shipping out human samples and not caring to build capacity among African researchers.

“I was one of the pioneers of EDCTP and we formed it to build capacity of African researchers, which is really happening compared to other collaborations. It is a reality in Africa,” said Professor Lynn Sodai Zijenah, the chairman, Department of Immunology, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences.

“I am conducting three clinical trials in the fields of HIV and Tuberculosis. I will be making the preliminary results to the Ministry of Health to change policy,” said Zijenah.

Under EDCTP, I am looked at as a partner not like a third world scientist who does not know anything or pretend they are not on the ground, said another researcher.

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science said EDCTP is a beacon of hope for many people in Africa and a unique powerful partnership. She also described it as and an excellent example of what we can be achieved between Africa and Europe when they work together.

During the first phase of EDCTP (2003-2011) more than 200 African scientists and medical doctors got professional training, research careers were built, many students graduated with Masters and PhD degrees.

At the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Groote Schuur Hospital, Prof. Keertan Dheda a senior research fellow is working on Tuberculosis diagnosis in high burden settings.

Dheda is a typical example of a fellow who got an EDCTP fellowship was trained and is now leading a research team, collaborating with other African countries and winning bigger grants.

The first African Regional Networks of Excellence for clinical trials was also launched and a true partnership between Europe and Africa developed with over 70 per cent of all EDCTP-funded activities led by African researchers.

The vision of EDCTP2 (2014-2024) is to support 50 new clinical trials- focusing on larger and more costly phase III trials, strengthen Africa’s capacities for clinical research and train 250 African researchers and doctors.

African researchers said usually the Americans say they do not have enough funds, thus the shipment of specimens, but it is equally expensive and tedious to transport them.

Americans develop protocols and then identify their partners in Africa, researchers, whose only job is to collect specimens and data and ship them.

But African researchers still continue to partner with Americans in research even without building much capacity. Why?

“The research we do with Americans is usually not our priority but we are beggars and most of us are looking at getting promotions,” said a researcher from Zambia who preferred anonymity.

New external assistance approach for more research needed urgently

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Esther Nakkazi
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


If Africa is to adequately address some of the disease burdens that have been choking the continent for years on end, a new external assistance approach for more research is not just needed but urgently. These were the humbling thoughts from the Spokesman for the European Parliament at the second High Level Conference on the EDCTP (the European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership)

Nirj Deva, the Conservative MEP for the South East of England and Vice Chair of the European Parliament’s International Development Committee warned that a fresh approach is needed towards international aid

“Every 40 Seconds a child living in Sub-Saharan Africa dies from a mosquito bite. There are 35 million people living today with HIV and this number will only continue to grow. Today, right now, people all over the world live and struggle with abject poverty, hunger and ill health.”
And he rhetorically asked, “How could we have allowed this to happen?” “How did we manage to overlook the fact that one billion people are living their lives lacking the most basic access to fundamental healthcare that we take for granted everyday?” “If we do not help who will?

To him, thinking that this challenge can be overcome by the sheer donation of more aid, more money is nothing but a delusion.  Instead adoption of a more intelligent strategy that takes into account all the factors at issue: “economic development, improved housing, better education and basic healthcare” is imperative

“Quite rightly my taxpayers will demand why we should increase research funding to eliminate diseases that don’t affect them, especially at a time when money is already tight.”
“The answer is simple and not entirely altruistic: Jobs; jobs created in Europe. 13,000 new jobs have already been created in Europe between 2002 and 2010 through exactly such investments in research into poverty related diseases.

This staggering fact means that every Euro we spend to wipe out meningitis, aids, malaria or TB in third world countries, results in increased employment here at home. It is a win – win that could help us out of the recession.”

Nirj Deva concluded his key-note address on Monday stating: “We live in a rapidly developing world defined by unprecedented innovations and opportunities. Yet, unless we act now, today, we will consign not only those already left behind, but their children as well to a continuing struggle for survival. They will never catch up, occupied instead by the need to find water, food, shelter, basic sanitation and medicine. We will have failed them.”

The high level conference that was widely attended by ministers from Europe and Africa as well as notable public and private stakeholders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called for a rise in funds towards the EDCTP, an increase from 400 million to 1 billion Euros

 

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

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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.