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The European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) announced this week (3 June) that it will inject over €80 million (around US$124 million) into African medical research.

Half of this sum has already been approved and will go towards malaria research and the development of tuberculosis (TB) vaccines. The remainder, expected later this year, has been earmarked for HIV and TB treatment and for the provision of vaccines and microbicides.

The combined sum will be the largest approved by the EDCTP since it was established in 2003, and should reinforce the European Union's partnership with Sub-Saharan Africa.

The EDCTP links 14 member states of the European Union, as well as Norway and Switzerland, to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, largely by providing resources for joint clinical trials, capacity building and networking activities.

In particular, EDCTP funds projects to create and develop capacity for ethical review of clinical trials and to improve regulatory frameworks for drug approval.

Charles Mgone, executive director of EDCTP, told SciDev.Net that the new funding will go to help all these activities, with the "lion's share" being given over to clinical trials.

"Quite often when there is North–South collaboration, the ideas come from the North, the money comes from the North, even the principal investigators come from the North," says Mgone.

"These [EDCTP-funded] projects empower Africans, enabling them to take ownership over the projects and do the work. Looking at the 27 projects we have approved, around 24 of them have African principal investigators working in Africa."

Victor Mwapasa from the Malawi College of Medicine is one such example. He and his colleagues are looking at whether antimalarial drugs, specifically artemisinin-based combinations, are safe to use in two particular groups — those who are HIV positive and children aged under six months.

"Most studies looking at the safe use of antimalarials have tended to omit very young children, those who weigh less than five kilograms or are under six months old," Mwapasa told SciDev.Net. "But this is a high-risk malaria group."

Mwapasa says he is excited to be part of such a large collaboration with African and European researchers.

His team's research will also be carried out in Mozambique and Zambia. "We rarely do research together, despite sharing the same problems," he adds.