2 July 2018

Africa: New Drive to Develop Drugs in Africa to Fight Malaria, TB

Photo: Michael Hammond/UCT
Professor Kelly Chibale, founder and director of Africa's first integrated drug discovery and development centre, H3D at the University of Cape Town.

Cape Town — In a bid to generate African solutions to African challenges, researchers on the continent are being offered grants to come up with new drugs to fight malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.

The University of Cape Town has announced that its Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D), is partnering with the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Medicines for Malaria Venture, to invite researchers to submit proposals for grants of up to U.S. $100,000 to identify new candidates for drugs.

“African-led innovation in drug discovery has historically been hampered by a number of factors, including but not limited to the absence of a critical mass of appropriately skilled scientists as well as poor access to infrastructure, enabling technology platforms and expertise,” said Professor Kelly Chibale, the leader of the H3D centre.

“Therefore, there is a strong need to find sustainable solutions that build local capacity while getting the job done. This new programme does just that.”

He added that the partners will proactively seek to identify and fund talented African-based scientists: “This will result in an effective increase in the numbers of productive and contributing African drug discovery scientists as well as an increase in the quality and impact of drug discovery science generated in Africa by Africans.”

The university said the centre will provide opportunities for partners elsewhere on the continent to join malaria and TB drug discovery projects as full project members, working from their home institutions.

“H3D will also offer grantees the opportunity to use its infrastructure, technology platforms and expertise to fill gaps in their own environment,” the university added. “Successful applicants will also be able to tap into H3D and the pharmaceutical industry’s scientist exchange programmes, enabling them to gain valuable additional skills.”

The AAS, which runs an initiative called “Grand Challenges Africa” (GC Africa), will provide scientific guidance and coordinate the programme.

“This opportunity should create a network of drug discovery and development scientists that will initiate, develop, share, evaluate and disseminate best approaches and practices within the research community in Africa,” said the manager of GC Africa, Moses Alobo.

Africa represents 17 percent of the world’s population but bears a disproportionate 25 percent of the world's burden of diseases. Sub-Saharan Africa has 90 percent of the world's malaria cases.

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