Tag Archives: research funding

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.

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How about insurance in research for clinical trials participants?

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Esther Nakkazi
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


How about some of the funds raised for clinical trials being used for insurance, were the thoughts of some delegates at the high-level European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) II conference in Cape Town on 5 November.

Modest Mulenga, the Director, Disease Research Centre, Zambia said the ethics committees in Africa have been strengthened to conduct fairly ethical clinical trials but participants were not insured.

So far, under EDCTP-I, the first African Regional Networks of Excellence for clinical trials was launched while National Regulatory Authorities was also established and ethics review capacities in many African countries were strengthened.

The Pan-African Clinical Trials Registry (PACTR) as an African initiative funded by EDCTP, which is now officially recognised as a WHO Primary Clinical Trials Registry was also established in EDCTP I.

“We can not go on pretending, participants in clinical trials should not only be protected ethically but even against any harm because this is research-it may or may not work,” said Mulenga.

The feeling by some scientists at the EDCPT II conference was that Insurance companies should come on board to look out for and protect clinical trials participants.

However, they stressed that insurance of participants in trials should especially be done by drug companies since they do product testing.

Partners like EDCTP would never agree to use their resources for insurance assured Thomas Nyirenda of EDCTP.

If funding partners were to insure participants it would mean that most of the money raised would be probably go to compensation. For instance, with a grant of 200 million Euros, if a clinical trial caused any harm, all these funds would be spent on compensation.

“Pharmaceutical companies should insure the participants and I think in most cases it is provided for but Africans researchers overlook it,” said Nyirenda.

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