05/04/13

Biomedical research fellowship aims to build capacity in Africa

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[KAMPALA] Two European research bodies are collaborating on a clinical research fellowship scheme to train biomedical students in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the first open call for applications expected later this year.

The award, funded by the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries is competitive and aimed at African professionals involved in clinical health research in Sub-Saharan Africa.

SPEED READ

  • A new fellowship will train African biomedical students in European pharmaceutical companies
  • It comes amidst concerns that biomedical researchers have a lack of opportunities in their home countries
  • Experts say the fellowship will help build capacity across the continent

Awardees will be able to train at selected pharmaceutical companies in Europe. The fellowships will focus on advanced methods and techniques related to clinical trials.

EDCTP spokesman Gert Onne van de Kalshorst said they were unable to provide more precise details on the amount of money involved and the number of scholarships that will be made available.

The award comes against a backdrop of complaints that biomedical scientists trained at home get low levels of engagement and no access to leadership roles in clinical trials research.

"This [new fellowship] will enable African researchers and their institutions to compete successfully for research funding, and to contribute to the global research effort to fight diseases that are still a heavy burden in Africa," says Gabrielle Breugelmans, EDCTP North-North Networking Manager.

Charles Mgone, EDCTP executive director, says: "It is critical that more African researchers [get] sufficiently trained and equipped with skills and expertise in clinical trials research to fight diseases that severely impact the social and economic development of the region".

The fellowship scheme is open to those involved in clinical health research such as medical doctors and nurses at institutions based or operating in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is not only for established, experienced scientists, but also aimed at mid-career scientists, according to Mgone.

According to Steven Baveewo, a researcher at the College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, the fellowship will help in building human capacity in Africa.

"The current training in Africa puts emphasis in areas such as epidemiology, biostatistics, proposal writing, manuscript writing, designing, data management and data analysis but skill gaps remain in the systematic implementation especially among investigator initiated research projects," Baveewo tells SciDev.Net.

Africa holds ten per cent of all pharmaceutical-sponsored clinical trials globally and yet has the highest burden of diseases globally, according to Baveewo.

It is hoped that the programme will also accelerate the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines, microbicides, and diagnostics against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa desk.

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