Research, disease: carving out a role for Africa in the fight against communicable diseases
Philippe Busquin was in Africa last week to bring African
partners onboard an ambitious €600 million joint research
initiative aimed at tackling those communicable diseases that
threaten the continent’s well-being.
Commissioner Busquin urged 46 African health
ministers to mobilise around the Commission’s ambitious
Europe-Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).
Speaking at a recent World Health Organisation gathering in
Johannesburg, South Africa, he called upon them to make it
an important component of their national priorities.
“[This] is a unique opportunity for African and European
researchers, from academia, the public sector and industry,
to join hands in fighting the world's worst epidemics and
demonstrate real solidarity towards the populations that need
it most,” he explained. The EDCTP will focus its attention
on three of Africa’s biggest killer diseases: AIDS,
malaria and tuberculosis.
By directing attention towards more neglected diseases, the
initiative hopes to help redress the current imbalance in
which 10% of research activity is devoted to the ailments
that make up 90% of the world’s disease burden. It also
aims to build local research capacity to solve local problems
in African and other developing countries.
The €600 million initiative is part of the international
co-operation aspect of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme.
The EU has provided €200 million to back efforts in this
field, with another €200 million each coming from research
programmes in Member States and the private sector.
The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies,
an independent group of ethicists, has welcomed the EDCTP.
Nevertheless, a respect for fundamental human rights should
underscore EU-funded clinical trials in developing countries,
the group insists.
"The fundamental ethical rules applied
to clinical trials in industrialised countries are to be applicable
everywhere," it said in a recent opinion.
These overarching principles include respect for human dignity,
non-exploitation, non-discrimination, and the giving of free
and informed consent. The group, chaired by Swedish philosopher
Göran Hermerén, also emphasised that research
in developing countries should only be carried out if it complies
with the health needs of the host country and not for reasons
of “pure convenience”.
Source: EU sources
Commission press release