New funding that will be given through a call for proposals for the discovery of new drugs for diseases endemic to Afrika over the next two years is now available. The Drug Discovery funds is up to $100,000 per project to researchers in Afrika to identify new drug candidates, particularly for malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.

The funding will also be used to create a network of drug discovery as well for development scientists that will initiate, develop, share, evaluate and disseminate best approaches and practices within the research community in Afrika.

The African Academy of Sciences (AAS), University of Cape Town (UCT) Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D), Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have committed funding for the discovery of new drugs for diseases endemic to Africa over the next two years.

This is the third call for proposals administered by the AAS’ Grand Challenges Africa (GC Africa), a scheme implemented through the AAS and the NEPAD Agency’s Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA).

"This partnership will benefit Africa by developing the capacity and augmenting efforts to discover and develop drugs for diseases that are prevalent on the continent and are otherwise being affected by a market bias that has seen drug discovery efforts on the continent hampered," said the AESA / Director of Programmes Prof Tom Kariuki.

Africa represents 17% of the world’s population but bears a disproportionate 25% of the global disease burden with sub-Saharan Africa carrying 90% of the global cases of malaria while 2.5 million who fell ill with TB in Africa in 2016 represented a quarter of new TB cases in the world.
Drug resistance is also compounding the disease burden requiring for Africa to build capacity and step up drug discovery activities.

The new funding will be given to projects that identify new chemical entities with potential for drug development in diseases of local relevance for Africa and to expand institutions' drug discovery research capacity.

Selected applicants will also benefit from a network of drug discovery scientists in Africa and across the globe, linking them to peers, mentors and providing them with access to resources and technologies

Prof Kelly Chibale - Founder and Director of Drug Discovery and Development Centre, H3D at the University of Cape Town, said: “The attractive aspect of this programme is that it focusses on highlighting and investing in those who are present on the continent. The partners involved are proactively seeking to identify and fund talented African-based scientists to succeed and not to merely survive.

This will result in an effective increase in the numbers of productive and contributing African drug discovery scientists as well as an increase in the quality and impact of drug discovery science generated in Africa by Africans.”

“Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) is proud to support the effort to identify new drug candidates for the big three diseases of malaria, tuberculosis and Neglected Tropical Diseases via this call for proposals,” said Dr. Timothy Wells, MMV’s Chief Scientific Officer.

“At MMV, our focus is on bringing forward the next-generation of medicines to help defeat malaria. Through these grants, together with our partners, we aim to support the next-generation of African scientists to get involved in this endeavor for malaria as well as other diseases.”