New Alliance to Build African Capacity for Malaria Drug and Vaccine Research

Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance Supported by New $17 Million Gates Foundation Grant

24 Apr 2006

ACCRA, Ghana - The international INDEPTH Network announced today the establishment of a new initiative, the Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance (MCTA), that will help conduct clinical trials of new drugs and vaccines to fight malaria, a disease that kills 2,000 African children every day.

MCTA will provide training and technical assistance to research centers in nine countries across Africa (Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi, Gabon, Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Kenya and Senegal) and help to leverage the capabilities of the INDEPTH Network to strengthen global research and development activities targeting malaria. MCTA is supported by a new US$17 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

New malaria drugs and a vaccine are urgently needed in Africa, where malaria has grown resistant to the cheapest and most widely-used treatments. As several promising new drugs and vaccines move through the research pipeline, there is a need to build African capacity to conduct large-scale clinical trials of these drugs and vaccines over the next decade.

MCTA will help ensure that African trial sites are properly managed; are able to hire and train staff; and have database, communications and good financial accounting systems in place. MCTA will also facilitate collaboration among trial sites, including sharing of data, expertise and best practices.

Professor Fred Binka, Executive Director of the INDEPTH Network, said: “Important progress is being made in developing new malaria drugs and vaccines, but there are not enough research sites in Africa to conduct the trials that are needed. The funding that we have received from the Gates Foundation, which is one of the most significant grants to an Africa-based organization involved in the fight against malaria, will help accelerate research that could save millions of lives.”

MCTA’s initial focus will be to work with the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the Malaria Vaccine Initiative to prepare sites for large-scale clinical trials of malaria drug and vaccine candidates. In the future, this alliance will seek to partner with other organizations that have candidate products that require clinical testing.

“Strengthening clinical trials facilities in Africa is key to achieving the goals of product development partnerships such as Medicines for Malaria Venture,” said Dr Christopher Hentschel, President and CEO of MMV. “With nearly 20 drug development projects in the portfolio, several of which are in phase III, we are very pleased with the additional support our trial sites will receive from the Malaria Clinical Trial Alliance.”

Dr Pascoal Mocumbi, the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership’s ambassador, said that “this alliance addresses the fundamental issues from a long-term perspective to ensure that trial sites in Africa will provide sustainable, continuous support for, and take the lead in, clinical trials.”

MCTA’s long-term goal is to increase the number of self-sustaining clinical research centers in Africa that can support their own research programs linked to local and national priorities.

The INDEPTH Network was formally constituted in 2002 with initial core support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Sida/SAREC, the World Bank and the Wellcome Trust. “This investment by the Gates Foundation is not only a major milestone for INDEPTH, making it possible for us to ratchet up our scientific contributions, but is also true recognition of the efforts of our other funding partners who continue to show sustained confidence in INDEPTH,” said Prof. Stephen Tollman, Chair of the INDEPTH Board of Trustees.