RESULTS’ Health Advocacy Assistant, Bruce Warwick, looks at the European and  Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership and warmly welcomes recent financial commitments. 

Last week on 10th July the European Commission (EC) approved a proposal for the continued support of the ‘European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership’ as it moves into its second phase (EDCPT II 2014-2024). This approval now means that Member States and the European Commission have each committed €683 equalling a combined value of €1.4 billion. It was hoped that donors would commit up to €1 billion and so the combined amount of €1.4 billion really is a fantastic win in the effort to eliminate tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria which still account for 3.5 million deaths every year.

What is the EDCTP?

DSC00272Established in 2003, the EDCTP is an initiative that aims to establish a research and development programme for the development of new or improved clinical interventions to combat tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. Clinical interventions include the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines, microbiocides and diagnostics.

It is a partnership between 14 European Union countries, plus Switzerland and Norway, and 47 sub-Saharan African countries. By working in partnership, the EDCTP has been able to pool resources, funding and activities enabling it to achieve a greater impact against the three poverty related diseases (PRNDs) than if countries were acting alone.

Significantly, it also serves to improve the research environment (whether through capacity building of staff, infrastructure etc.) within participating countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This is noteworthy given that the region remains the worst affected by these diseases – TB is a major cause of death among people living with HIV and in Africa alone there were 1.3 million people newly infected in 2010 accounting for 50% of the 2.6 million global new cases. It is noted that: During the first phase of EDCTP (2003-2011) more than 200 African scientists and medical doctors got professional training, research careers were built, many students graduated with Masters and PhD degrees.

EDCTP II

With the first phase of the EDCTP coming to an end this year, EDCTP II will launch in early 2014. It is hoped that the partnership, which has proven so successful in the past decade, will be able to replicate these successes in the decade to come. The announcement of €1.4 billion in funding certainly inspires confidence – this amount is significantly larger than the €400 million contributed by the EC and member states between 2003-2015.

Poverty-Related and Neglected Diseases and Research and 

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The EU has frequently been called upon to do more for poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs) research and development and we’re happy to see, from this announcement, that the importance of R&D is recognised. For TB in particular the ongoing support or R&D financing is vital. Shockingly, the current TB drug regimen was developed over 40 years ago and there remain no treatment options that are suitable for children. Recent studies have shown that new and improved TB drugs, vaccines and diagnostics could reduce the global incidence of TB by 71% by 2050, a reduction of more than 6.5 million cases.

This funding undoubtedly represents a significant step in the right direction for R&D into PRNDs.  I would urge the UK Government and donors overseas to continue to recognise the crucial nature of investing into R&D and innovation when looking to tackle PRNDs effectively. Along with the EDCTP there are initiatives such as TB REACH or UNITAID that have had a considerable impact.

I warmly welcome the announcement regarding the financing of EDCTP II and hope that with this investment into R&D and new tools we can help empower and make a vast difference to the lives of the millions of people who are currently affected by HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other poverty-related and neglected diseases.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of RESULTS.