2022 End of Year Message from Dr Michael Makanga, EDCTP Executive Director

22 December 2022

Dear Colleagues, Partners and Friends,

2022 has been a challenging and very productive year, particularly when it comes to addressing health and research inequalities in global health. Our grants portfolio holds at a total cash value of €825.64 million invested in 435 grants – 84% towards research & development; and 16% towards very transformative capacity development initiatives. These activities involve 44 African countries (with 100% participation of all French and Portuguese-speaking sub-Saharan African countries), 19 European countries and 8 other countries, and a collaborative network of 309 African and 209 European institutions, multidisciplinary researchers and other professionals involved in clinical research and related enabling environment.

Research and development (R&D) through clinical trials and product-focused implementation research constitute the majority cost of our portfolio, and our total investment stands at €691.55million (about 84% of grants funding), supporting 140 clinical research grants, several of which involve multiple clinical trials. Of these, 63% are phase II and III trials, and many target highly vulnerable populations, including pregnant and lactating women, newborns, children, adolescents and individuals with comorbidities. A further 17% of projects are post-licensing (phase IV) studies, including product-focused implementation studies, generating evidence highly relevant to policymakers. These studies have now started generating very valuable results, and EDCTP is now a member of Europe PubMed Central – an open science platform – to maximise collection and sharing of the scientific articles and research outputs.

Inter alia, some of the success stories registered this year include:

  • Malaria drugs and vaccines R&D:
    • Strong recommendation for pyronaridine-artesunate (Pyramax) in 2022 revised WHO malaria treatment guidelines: The studies conducted by the EDCTP-supported West African Network for Clinical Trials of Antimalarial Drugs (WANECAM) in a phase IIIb/IV safety and efficacy study; and the Central African Network on Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Malaria (CANTAM) in a safety and effectiveness study of Pyramax, generated data that supported this decision. Inclusion in the latest version of the WHO guidelines for malaria is a key step towards broader use of the medicine.
    • Promising safety and immunogenicity results from R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine: The Multi-Stage Malaria Vaccine Consortium (MMVC) published their Burkina Faso phase IIb study results which demonstrated that the malaria vaccine candidate R21/Matrix-M is safe, immunogenic and has an efficacy of 77%, exceeding the WHO goal of 75% efficacy for malaria vaccines. Promising safety and immunogenicity results have been reported this year after a two-year follow-up period. This success story was profiled in a BBC news article: ‘New malaria vaccine is world-changing, say scientists
  • HIV co-infections therapeutics R&D:
    • An EDCTP-funded phase III trial of the AMBITION-cm research team confirmed that an alternative formulation of amphotericin B, delivered in tiny lipid-based packages (liposomes), would be more suitable for resource-poor settings than the current treatment regimen. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 23 March 2022 and informed the rapid WHO advice. The new WHO guidelines now strongly recommend a single high dose of liposomal amphotericin B as part of the preferred induction regimen for the treatment of cryptococcal meningitis in people living with HIV.
    • Moreover, the AMBITION-cm project published an economic analysis in Lancet Global Health demonstrating the cost and cost-effectiveness of the single, high-dose liposomal amphotericin (L-AmB) regimen for cryptococcal meningitis in five countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.
  • Leading the field with excellence and multiplier effect: Analysis of EDCTP investment in promotion of African scientific excellence and leadership (refer to comprehensive report):
    • To date, the EDCTP programme has supported 418 fellows and long-term training (such as postdocs, PhD and Master’s training) to over 1000 additional African researchers working on poverty-related infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, with special attention to gender and language barriers. Several fellows have in turn supervised and mentored hundreds more, creating a multiplier effect that has provided a significant boost to health research capacity in the region.

Further capacity development initiatives: We are helping to develop an enabling environment for clinical research, by strengthening national regulatory (including pharmacovigilance) and ethical review capacities, with 37 countries benefiting from such grants. EDCTP has continued to galvanise its funding strategy to build upon successes and lessons learned, and through working with partners such as Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO-AFRO), the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB).

COVID-19 response: Our COVID-19 grants conducted in sub-Saharan Africa are generating very valuable regional data. Additionally, our two research consortia – ALERRT and PANDORA-ID-NET – as well as the four regional networks of excellence, continue working to enhance the capacity of African regions to prepare for and respond to infectious disease outbreaks and are actively involved in the COVID-19 and Ebola response. Moreover, through a Participating Member State Initiated Activity (PSIA) from the United Kingdom, EDCTP is funding the first activities of the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness (GloPID-R)in Africa which includes piloting the African Regional Hub.

EDCTP approach to consortia implementation is informing good practice guideline documents: The EDCTP-funded African coaLition for Epidemic Research, Response and Training (ALERRT) and Pan-African Network for Rapid Research, Response, Relief and Preparedness for Infectious Disease Epidemics (PANDORA-ID-NET) networks are highlighted as best practices of research consortia to build equitable decision-making. These feature in a good practice document entitled ‘Four Approaches to Supporting Equitable Research Partnerships’, published by the UK Collaborative on Development Research (UKCDR) & ESSENCE on Health Research. EDCTP is also part of the PREPARED global project that aims to is to develop an operational ethics and integrity framework, which safeguards key ethical values, supports a rapid and effective research response to crises and improves overall pandemic preparedness.

In the area of EU coordination, EDCTP Participating States’ total cash contribution has grown to approximately €193.97 million by the end of 2022. Additionally, €1.157 billion has been committed through European PSIAs in EDCTP workplans while €924.70 million are the PSIA costs confirmed at the reporting stage.

As part of African participation, five countries namely: Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya and Rwanda, have recently joined the EDCTP Association, bringing the total number of African member countries to 21. A total of €67 million in-kind is committed by African countries towards EDCTP2.

This year EDCTP was acknowledged in the report of the Advisory Group (AG) on R&I for Africa-Europe cooperation as “the most cited joint programme strengthening health research and health systems in Africa and the flagship EU-Africa partnership in health R&D cooperation, with large successful long-lasting research networks”.

Partnerships are core to our work. At the end of 2022, 309 African and 209 European institutions in 71 countries (44 in sub-Saharan African, 19 in Europe and eight other countries) are involved in EDCTP projects. In addition, we have leveraged financial contributions of € 423.61million (total cash and in kind) from global partners.

Building on the success of the first two EDCTP programmes, this year in May the Global Health EDCTP3 Joint Undertaking was officially launched.

In preparation for 2023, please save the date, 7-10 November to join us at the Eleventh EDCTP Forum and 20th Anniversary, to be held at the Palais des Congrès de Paris in France. The Forum theme is “Partnering for Global Health Research Innovation and Impact in Africa – Celebrating EDCTP: two decades and beyond”.

2022 has also left us with indelible wounds with the loss of our long serving-colleague and friend, Mrs Ana Lúcia Weinberg and the EDCTP General Assembly representative for Portugal, Dr Ricardo Pereira. May their souls rest in peace.

In conclusion, I take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the EDCTP programme for your resolute efforts and contributions during the year towards our achievements and for standing with us during the tough times.

I wish you all together with your families and significant others a blessed festive season and a prosperous 2023.