For decades there have been significant clinical research disparities and a very heterogeneous clinical research landscape for conducting clinical trials in sub-Saharan Africa across African researchers, institutions, countries and sub-regions. Fostering research collaborations is a means of addressing this challenge through investing in a joint pathway towards a stronger and sustainable sub-Saharan African clinical research landscape.
In 2007, under its first programme, EDCTP launched a call for proposals to strategically set-up four geographically defined networks of research and academic institutions referred to as the EDCTP Regional Networks of Excellence (NoE). The aim of these networks was to bring together different organisations from eastern, western, southern, and central Africa to improve clinical trial capacity and site preparedness in each region, with an initial focus on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Under this call for proposal, the four NoEs were established: CANTAM (Central Africa), EACCR (Eastern Africa), TESA (Southern Africa) and WANETAM (Western Africa).
Each network is anchored by a geographical region in sub-Saharan Africa, primarily within the boundaries of four African regional economic communities: East African Community (EAC), South African Development Community (SADC), Economic Community of Central African States (CEEMAC) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). These regional economic communities directly contribute to regional science and technology efforts which in turn strengthens regional research systems and the environment within which the networks operate.
Under the second EDCTP programme, new proposals were submitted by the Networks of Excellence and additional funding was approved in 2016, to a total of approximately €12 million. This additional funding aimed to help the networks build on the results of their first grants to increase South-South and North-South research collaborations, competences and capacity to conduct clinical trials. Additionally, the networks expanded their remit to include other poverty-related infectious diseases and emerging/re-emerging epidemics relevant to Africa.
In 2020, EDCTP Regional Networks are now invited to apply for an extension on their 2015 grants. Grants were awarded to EDCTP Regional networks that demonstrated significant progress in achieving set-out deliverables. The additional funding was also granted to support newly proposed activities that galvanised and expanded on previous EDCTP investments.
To date the EDCTP Regional NoE have established themselves as EDCTP flagship projects through a competitive funding process from the first and second programme of EDCTP.