22 January 2014

South Africa: Millions of Rands to Go Towards New Vaccines, Medicines

Medical research in South Africa is set to get a R370 million boost for the development of new medicines, vaccines and other technologies to fight against HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.

"The future is bright for science in South Africa," said Dr Trevor Mundel from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation yesterday at a meeting with the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the University of Cape Town (UCT), which are set to receive R180 million from the foundation.

The MRC will receive R125 million from the foundation, R130 million from the Department of Science and Technology, and R60 million from the Department of Health for its Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships (SHIP) programme. SHIP will fund selected research projects aimed at developing AIDS and TB vaccines.

"SHIP's role will be to build on the scientific leadership of South African scientists in these diseases and establish, fund and manage research programmes on innovative products and approaches to prevent AIDS and TB," the MRC said in a statement.

UCT's Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3-D) will receive about R55 million from the Gates Foundation over a five-year period to develop new TB and malaria treatments.

In 2012, H3-D announced the discovery of a promising chemical that could help with the treatment and eradication of malaria. The chemical, named MMV390048, is scheduled to enter human clinical trials this year.

According to MRC President Dr. Salim Abdool Karim, the funding gives South African scientists a unique opportunity to lead the process of developing new technologies to improve health.

"These grants are much more than just money," said Kelly Chibale, H3-D founder and director. "It gives us the opportunity to develop life-saving drugs that can have a huge impact in South Africa, the African continent, and the world."

He explained that it also addresses some other problems in South Africa by training new scientists, and creating jobs.

Thandabantu Nhlapo, UCT acting vice-chancellor, said that he is proud that scientists come from Africa, work in Africa, and develop African-generated solutions for African problems. - Health-e News Service.

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