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Over 60 countries fighting disease in Africa

Fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis requires collaboration between researchers and institutions from all over the world. Image: Claire Barrault © ECHO
Fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis requires collaboration between researchers and institutions from all over the world. Image: Claire Barrault © ECHO

The combined effort of the European Commission, EU Member States, developing countries, donors and industry has resulted in a programme of clinical trials against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa which has funded hundreds of research projects in the last 10 years.

The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) is working to combat these three diseases, which taken together kill more than 3.4 million people across the world every year, as well as other infectious diseases such as Leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness.

Together with other large-scale initiatives such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the programme is working on new vaccines, treatments and approaches to help ease the burden of disease, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa.

‘I think it has produced high-quality research, while at the same time strengthening research capacity in Africa,’ said Professor Peter Piot from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and a former executive director of the UNAIDS programme. ‘But of course it is only one tiny piece of the Framework Programmes.’

While the EDCTP is a partnership involving the European Union and European and African participating states, the EU has made the study of developing-world diseases a priority for the Framework Programmes since the 1980s.

Collaboration with researchers and institutions from outside the European Union has been a crucial part of this, particularly in developing links with countries where these diseases have the biggest impact.

‘Science is one of the most globalized activities on earth at the moment.’

Professor Peter Piot from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

‘If we really want to make an impact eventually in fighting these diseases, the people in these countries have to be involved in every step of the process, and that includes in the research itself,’ said Dr Cornelius Schmaltz, deputy head of the European Commission’s Fighting Infectious Diseases and Global Epidemics unit at the Directorate- General for Research and Innovation. Successive Framework Programmes have evolved ways to encourage participation from international partners in the affected regions, including grants with lighter administrative loads, staff exchanges through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, and collaboration schemes.

Prof. Piot sees being open to international cooperation in research as crucial to future European success.

‘Science is one of the most globalised activities on earth at the moment,’ he said. ‘So think global, of Europe as part of a global research enterprise. After all, frankly, the only real hope for our future is in innovation and science and entrepreneurship.’