The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Holistic Drug Discovery and Development (H3D) Centre and the University of Venda (UNIVEN) have jointly been awarded a R2.4 million grant to boost local tuberculosis (TB) research in South Africa.
The grant, awarded by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) through its Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships (SHIP) programme, will be distributed over a period of three years. It will support the TB Drug Discovery Capacity Development Project, which aims to contribute to finding solutions to the TB epidemic through innovative, African-led research.
“This partnership between H3D Centre, UNIVEN and SAMRC is in line with our transformation strategy, which seeks to build drug discovery capacity within Africa’s research institutions to enable them to carry out cutting-edge research and enhance their ability to innovate in line with the continent’s health needs,” said Prof. Kelly Chibale, Founder and Director, H3D Centre.
The project will be led by UNIVEN’s Prof Isaiah Ramaite with technical support from the H3D Centre. It will focus on finding novel starting points for development into TB therapies to address the emergence of drug resistance against the current front-line TB regime.
“TB remains a leading cause of death from a single infectious agent in Africa, which accounts for over 400,000 – or 25 percent – of global TB deaths each year according to the World Health Organization. Through this partnership we hope to boost drug discovery research capacity at UNIVEN, contribute to efforts to lower South Africa’s TB burden and create a pathway for more historically disadvantaged institutions (HDIs) to participate in H3D’s vision of positioning Africa as a global innovation hub for drug discovery and development,” said Dr Susan Winks, Head of Research Operations at H3D.
Since its inception in 2010 the H3D Centre’s mission has been to create and increase capacity for building and retaining skilled African scientists within pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) on the continent. In that time H3D has focused on discovering and developing innovative, life-saving medicines for infectious diseases; building Africa-specific models to contribute to improving treatment outcomes in African patients; developing drug discovery platform technologies and training African scientists in drug discovery-related sciences.
H3D Centre has over the years partnered with several South African universities including the Walter Sisulu University and University of Limpopo to build capacity for and enhance the quality of research in drug discovery and development, aided by funding from the SAMRC.
This new round of funding will see postgraduate students from UNIVEN supported to design and make compounds to be deployed in the treatment of TB. Students will also gain access to the world-class R&D infrastructure at H3D and be trained and mentored by the institution’s medicinal chemists.