Europe and Africa double research efforts to tackle AIDS, Ebola and other infectious diseases
The EU and Africa are doubling the research efforts to develop new and better medicines for poverty-related diseases affecting sub-Saharan Africa such as AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, hookworms and Ebola.
Building on the success of the first programme, the second European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership programme(EDCTP2) will work with a budget of €2 billion over the next ten years to fight infectious diseases in developing countries. For this, the EU will contribute €683 million from Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme, and around €1.5 billion will come from European countries. EDCTP2 heralds a new era of cooperation between Europe and Africa in medical research with countries from both continents working as equal partners.
Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "Infectious diseases like AIDS, Ebola or malaria are a major global threat, but they hit poor communities hardest. The latest Ebola outbreak reminds us that more research is needed to find new medicines and vaccines that will help save millions of lives. Today, Europe and Africa are stepping up their efforts to fight the spread of infectious diseases together. With the investment of EUR 700 million from Horizon 2020, the EU will boost research efforts to prevent new epidemics in the future."
Prof. John Gyapong, Board Member of the EDCTP Association said: "The birth of EDCTP2 is very timely. Neglected Infectious Diseases and Implementation Science Research are now covered. This presents a great opportunity for African countries to improve their health care delivery systems through good science. The prospects are indeed very bright."
The EDCTP Association now includes 13 European countries (Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom) and 11 African countries (Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, the Gambia, Ghana, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia). Mali, Burkina Faso, Sweden and Switzerland are about to join as well.
The main features of the EDCTP2 programme are:
- increased budget: from €1 billion in EDCTP1 to €2 billion in EDCTP2. The EU has increased its contribution from €200 to €683 million.
- extended scope: EDCTP2 does not only cover HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis but also emerging epidemics of particular relevance to Africa, such as Ebola, as well as some neglected infectious and parasitic diseases. It can now support all stages of clinical development and testing, from phase I to phase IV. This gives the potential to fund a new treatment from the moment it leaves the laboratory bench right up to its full regulatory approval and subsequent surveillance.
- stronger engagement of external funders: investment from other private and public funders will be increased. €70 million were raised from the private sector in EDCTP1, but the aim for EDCTP2 is to reach €500 million. The EU has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is about to sign a similar agreement with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
Infectious and parasitic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, hookworms and Ebola are widespread in sub-Saharan Africa where they affect in particular the poor, impoverished and malnourished population. Almost one billion people, many of whom are children, suffer from these diseases and each year they cause millions of deaths. HIV/AIDS alone kills more than 1.5 million people every year, while malaria and tuberculosis together kill an estimated 2.1 million people. In 2013, an estimated 6 million people were living with HIV in South Africa, which represented 17% of the people infected globally.
The problem cannot be solved by the market alone – businesses are often not willing to take the risk and invest in the development and production of medicines most needed by the poor but with uncertain returns on the research and development costs.
The EDCTP partnership corrects this market failure and is needed to develop and test new medicines in the population that will ultimately use them. By the end of 2012, EDCTP had funded 246 projects involving researchers from 259 institutions in 30 sub-Saharan African and 16 European countries.