GlaxoSmithKline has unveiled a £5-million collaboration with the UK and South African Medical Research Councils to support research into non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa, as part of the drug giant’s Open Lab initiative. 

The UK MRC will provide £2.5 million via the UK Newton Fund – established by the government in 2013 to develop science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries – and around £1.5 million will come from its South African peer. 

GSK said it will provide an additional £1 million and a commitment of internal R&D expertise to support research projects within South Africa in NCD, and is also committing a further £4 million to support successful proposals for NCD research from countries elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, a call for which is scheduled for later this year.

The Africa NCD Open Lab was established by GSK to create an innovative research network in which its scientists will collaborate with researchers across Africa on high quality epidemiological, genetic and interventional research, from its hub at the Stevenage R&D facility in the UK. It is hoped that this will help build local expertise on diseases such as cancer and diabetes, while instilling a deep vein of “African thinking” within GSK’s own R&D organisation, the firm said.

“The funding announced today is a great endorsement of GSK’s open research philosophy, and signifies growing agreement among the scientific community that collaboration is key to defeating some of the world’s biggest health problems,” said Patrick Vallance, President of Pharmaceutical R&D at GSK. “We believe that by providing support to African institutions as they carry out their own research in to the chronic disease variants that most affect the African people, the NCD Open Lab will play a key role in helping to tackle disease in this area.”