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UCT supports developments of new drugs in Africa

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Picture: Courtesy of African Academy of Sciences

By Ashok Ramsarup :: South Africa’s highly acclaimed University of Cape Town (UCT) has partnered with other organisations on a novel plan to help boost drug discovery efforts in a bid to stave off tuberculosis, malaria and other tropical diseases plaguing Africa.

UCT’s Drug Discovery and Development (H3D) will contribute its expertise and experience for the eight innovators from seven African countries who have been announced at the inaugural awardees of the Grand Challenges (GC) Africa drug discovery plan.

In a statement, the UCT said innovators would be involved in research that would ultimately advance the discovery of new drugs to prevent, treat and cure diseases endemic on the African continent.  The statement said: “As a partner, the University of Cape Town’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre, H3D, will share its expertise and experience with the awardees as this is fundamental to research.

The innovators, who were selected from 53 applications from 13 African countries, are from South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

GC Africa, working closely with H3D, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, awarded grants to innovative research projects in fields ranging from malaria and tuberculosis (TB) to Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness.

GC Africa Programme Manager Dr Moses Alobo pulled no punches explained: “Diseases considered to be of the poor face a market bias that has hampered the discovery of drugs to treat them. “

Dr Alobo made it abundantly clear that the African Academy of Sciences (AAS)  and its partners; UCT’s H3D; Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were transforming the treatment landscape on the continent to ensure more Africans had  improved access to effective and cheaper drugs.

“The aim of the exercise is to improve the lives so that they can lead healthier and happier lives,” said Dr Alobo.

Picture: Courtesy of Kim Cloete

Commenting on the innovation and entrepreneurial programme, Dr Alobo said: “The innovators, half of whom are women, will fund 100 000 dollars for a period of two years to expand their institutions’ drug discovery research capacity. The funding will help researchers to identify new chemical entities with potential for drug development in malaria, tuberculosis, leishmaniasis, HAT and enteroaggregative Escherichia coli, a bacteria associated with chronic and acute diarrhoea and childhood stunting.

H3D is recognized globally for its pivotal research in the fields of malaria and TB and has recently launched the African Drug Metabolism and Disposition project to address the issue of variability in drug response across African populations.

H3D Founder and Head Professor Kelly Chibale hoping to produce and promote excellence in the programme and offered experience in conducting drug discovery projects on the African continent.

The UCT, which is the leading institution in Africa, is hell bent on a global fight against diseases that will lead to job opportunities.

Africa represented 17% of the world’s population, but bears a disproportionate 25% of the global disease burden. Sub-Saharan Africa carries 90% of the global cases of malaria. In 2016, World Health Organisation (WHO) reports show that 2.5 million people, who fell ill with TB in Africa, represented a quarter of new TB cases in the world.

The University of Cape Town  which is a public research university located in Cape Town in the Western Cape Province was founded  in 1829 as the oldest educational institution in South Africa.

Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa 🇿🇦

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