2023 End of the year message from Mr Abdoulie Barry, Acting Executive Director

20 December 2023

Dear Colleagues, Partners and Friends,

As we look forward to celebrating Christmas and New Year with our families and friends, it is important to highlight and take pride in what we have been able to achieve together this year.

As you all know, this year has been a milestone year for EDCTP in that we celebrated our 20th anniversary during the Eleventh EDCTP Forum held in Paris, France, from 7–10 November 2023. The theme of the Eleventh EDCTP Forum: “Partnering for Global Health Research Innovation and Impact in Africa – Celebrating EDCTP: two decades and beyond” was well reflected in the Forum programme and we heard remarkable stories of EDCTP successes over the past 20 years and exciting insights on prospective Global Health EDCTP3 activities.

It was the biggest EDCTP Forum ever, which attracted 1,118 delegates from 64 countries. It was encouraging and pleasing to see the high level of interest from around the world to join us in person and virtually to discuss cutting-edge, impactful global health research, networking and collaboration. The speakers at this Forum included the French Minister of Higher Education and Research, the Nigerian Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, the French Ambassador for Global Health, and the Director of the WHO African Region. At the Forum, many EDCTP-funded projects presented the results of their studies. It also provided an opportunity to announce the winners of the EDCTP Prizes 2023. The Dr Pascoal Mocumbi keynote address at the opening ceremony was delivered by Professor Michel Kazatchkine. This was done to honour the life and work of EDCTP’s first High Representative, Dr Pascoal Mocumbi who sadly passed away in March 2023.

Our thanks go to our hosts, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research of France and ANRS | Emerging Infectious Diseases, for welcoming us to the beautiful city of Paris.

As you all know, since its inception EDCTP has been promoting fair and equitable European-African research collaborations focused on poverty-related diseases. Under the first programme (EDCTP1, 2003-2015), the main priorities were HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. Under the second programme (EDCTP2, 2014-2024), the scope expanded to include diarrhoeal diseases, lower respiratory tract infections, neglected infectious diseases, as well as emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases of epidemic potential. The third programme, Global Health EDCTP3, was launched in 2022 with a budget of up to €1.6 billion.

The grant portfolio of the EDCTP1 and EDCTP2 programmes has reached a total value of €1.20 billion, invested in 692 projects. Research and development through clinical trials and product-focused implementation research constitutes the majority (83%) of investments in our portfolio. To date, we have supported 206 collaborative research grants and a total of 477 clinical studies, including 153 phase II and III trials and 86 diagnostics trials. Many of these studies target at-risk populations – such as pregnant women, infants, children and adolescents, and people with co-morbidities who are usually excluded from clinical trials. Supported studies have generated more than 2,000 peer-reviewed publications to date.

Key highlights of 2023 include:

  • WHO recommendation for use of the new malaria vaccine R21/Matrix-M for the prevention of malaria in children. EDCTP supported the phase Ib/IIb trials on this vaccine which generated promising results enabling further evaluation in the recently completed phase III multicentre trial.
  • The results of the DREAMM study published in The Lancet HIV in October 2023 showed that DREAMM implementation interventions and strategies substantially reduced all-cause 2-week mortality from 49% to 24% among people living with HIV presenting to public hospitals in Africa with suspected HIV-related infection of the central nervous system. Health system engineering combined with a multidisciplinary approach driven by local leadership proved a powerful means for enacting quality care.
  • The results of the CHAPAS–4 study, designed to identify an optimal second-line treatment for children living with HIV were presented at the International AIDS Society Conference in summer 2023. The trial found that newer antiretroviral combinations including tenofovir alafenamide and dolutegravir were superior to older second-line options.
  • Products for two neglected infectious diseases from EDCTP-funded studies received positive scientific opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Arpraziquantel, developed by the Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium, received positive scientific opinion from the EMA for the treatment of schistosomiasis in preschool-aged children. The EMA has also adopted a positive scientific opinion of fexinidazole, developed by the HAT-r-ACC Consortium, for treating b. rhodesiense sleeping sickness, a rare but extremely lethal form of this parasitic disease found in Eastern and Southern Africa.
  • The EDCTP-funded PrEPVacc study stopped its experimental vaccine regimens as the interim analysis showed that these would not be efficacious in preventing infection. The POR TB consortium reported that the H56:IC31 candidate vaccine had failed to protect against TB recurrence. We commend both projects for their excellent management of the trials. We expect these results to inform decisions about the development of future vaccines and we urge all stakeholders to redouble efforts to achieve successful vaccines against these deadly diseases.

The EDCTP Association welcomed seven new member countries: Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Zimbabwe. To date, the EDCTP Association membership comprises 15 European and 28 African countries.

Looking back 20 years ago, no one could have imagined in September 2003 – even the most optimistic – that EDCTP, a newly created entity, with an acronym difficult to pronounce, would make such a significant contribution towards research of poverty-related diseases including generating data of critical public health importance.

I will seize this opportunity to specially thank Dr Michael Makanga, who resigned in November 2023 as Executive Director of the EDCTP Association to take up his new role as the Executive Director of the Global Health EDCTP3 Joint Undertaking. He was everything a good Executive Director should be: very hard-working, always calm, thoughtful and diplomatic. We should all be proud of what we have been able to achieve under his leadership.

I wish you all and your families a happy festive season.

Best regards,

Mr Abdoulie Barry
Acting Executive Director and Director of Finance and Administration, EDCTP Association