The new funding will be given through a call for proposals for drug discovery, offering up to $100,000 per project to researchers in Africa to identify new drug candidates, particularly for malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.
The funding further seeks to create a network of drug discovery and development scientists that will initiate, develop, share, evaluate and disseminate best approaches and practices within the research community in Africa.
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 the funds towards the venture.
"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,” Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) Director of Programmes, Prof. Tom Kariuki said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
Africa represents 17 percent of the world’s population but bears a disproportionate 25 percent of the global disease burden with sub-Saharan Africa carrying 90 percent of the global cases of malaria.
2.5 million who fell ill with TB on the continent in 2016 represented a quarter of new cases of the disease 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 the 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
“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,” said Founder and Director of Drug Discovery and Development Centre, H3D at the University of Cape Town, Prof Kelly Chibale.