A major step forward in the fight against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis has been achieved with the setting-up of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). Through developing new or improved drugs, vaccines and microbicides, the partners contribute to reversing the spread of these afflictions.
As the main poverty-related diseases, the three illnesses account for over 6 million deaths yearly. Controlling their spread is therefore vital to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The EDCTP was launched in 2003 in the context of the global health crisis to support projects in this field: clinical trials, capacity building and networking activities are combined to achieve sustainable progress.
In terms of capacity building, the EDCTP seeks to build both the physical and intellectual capacity needed to conduct clinical trials in Africa. This is essential for improving research management, conducting clinical trials in a more efficient way and developing an appropriate regulatory environment.
The creation of networks is a key element of the partnership. These cover all geographic dimensions:
- North-North networks: European countries involved in combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa are encouraged to coordinate their national research programmes.
- North-South networks: the EDCTP has established a partnership amongst research institutes in the EU and Africa to involve African scientists on the front lines of the battle against the three pandemics in the clinical trials, thereby ensuring an optimal use of resources.
- South-South networks: African networks of excellence have been created to allow the best sites for clinical research on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in different African countries to combine their efforts. So far, the EDCTP has funded large regional networks in the four regions of sub-Saharan Africa – WANETAM in West Africa, EACCR in East Africa, CANTAM in Central Africa and TESA, in southern Africa.
Significant results have already been achieved: since the beginning of the partnership, the EDCTP funded over 200 projects including 50 clinical trials on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. A new drug combination for treating HIV-infected children approved by the American Food and Drug Administration is among the most significant advances and has proven instrumental in saving children's lives in Africa. This is the first time that antiretroviral medicines formulated specifically for paediatric use have become available in Africa.
The partnership involves 14 EU countries, Norway and Switzerland as well as 47 sub-Saharan African countries. Funding includes €200 million from the European Commission and €200 million from member states, along with contributions from the pharmaceutical industry and private foundations.