A regional Network of Excellence for clinical trials in tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria has been set up in Central Africa with funding of €3 million over three years from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).

The Central Africa Network on Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Malaria (CANTAM) is the first step in a wider initiative by the EDCTP to establish an infrastructure for high-quality clinical trials across Africa. It involves research institutions and political partners from Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Tanzania and Germany, as follows:

- Cameroon: University of Buea; University of Yaoundé; Centre International de Référence Chantal Biya; the Organisation de Coordination pour la lutte Contre les Endémies en Afrique Centrale (OCEAC)

- Congo: University Marie Ngouabi; Centre d’Etudes des Ressources Végétales

- Gabon: The Medical Research Unit of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital
- Tanzania: Multilateral Initiative on Malaria
- Germany: The University of Tübingen.
CANTAM will work to develop capacity in areas such as good clinical and laboratory practice (GCP and GLP), data management, quality control and research ethics.

The number of clinical trials for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa is increasing sharply and is expected to increase further in the coming years, the EDCTP noted. “The question is whether the countries of sub-Saharan Africa have sufficient clinical trials centres that are well equipped and staffed to ensure that these trials are conducted according to internationally acceptable standards,” it added.

To address this challenge, the Partnership established a grant programme to fund regional Networks of Excellence across Africa. The aim is for clinical trial centres in countries of Central, Eastern, Southern and Western Africa to be interlinked at the regional level.

In this way, the EDCTP explained, “they can complement each other in building capacity to design and conduct large multi-centre clinical trials on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and other related diseases. Ultimately, the four networks will also work in collaboration and complement each other”.
The plan is that the corresponding networks for Eastern, Western and Southern Africa will start operations later this year.

Funded under the European Commission’s Sixth Framework Programme for research and technological development, the EDCTP is a partnership between European and sub-Saharan countries that seeks to reduce the burden of poverty-related diseases by pooling resources for clinical trials to develop new interventions against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

These efforts are centred on Phase II and III clinical trials in sub-Saharan Africa. The partners include 14 European Union member states, Norway, Switzerland and 47 sub-Saharan African countries.