African Drug Discovery Group Clinches Partnership with Pharma Body to Expand Continental Capacity
African drug innovation will get a boost with new partnership.

CAPE TOWN – A drug discovery and development centre based at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has joined forces with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) to strengthen health innovation in Africa.

The three-year partnership announced this week will focus on driving capacity-strengthening for drug discovery and development in Africa by scaling existing initiatives and identifying new opportunities for young and mid-career African scientists.

“The University of Cape Town Holistic Drug Discovery & Development (H3D) centre is the only integrated drug discovery and development platform in Africa,” said Professor Kelly Chibale, who heads both H3D and the H3D Foundation (H3D-F).

“Over the last 10 years, H3D has proven itself as a platform to develop world-class infrastructure, talent, and health innovation that will contribute to improving lives not only in Africa, but all over the world. We are ready to take our work to the next level through partnership and collaboration with key organisations like IFPMA, strengthening capacity far beyond H3D.” 

Chibale, who is a professor of organic chemistry at UCT, is leading research on treatment solutions designed for, and tested on, Africans – rather than western-developed medicine tested on Caucasians that may not be optimal for people with different genetic make-up.


This Research Centre Wants Your Liver – If You’re From Africa


H3D-F, which was established to build on the success of the H3D’s capacity development programmes, aims to position Africa as a global player in innovative pharmaceutical R&D by building infrastructure as well as the skills of African scientists and researchers. 

The IFPMA will be an “anchor partner”, offering short- to mid-term support to increase awareness of H3D-F activities to develop and strengthen the capacity of human resources for health innovation in Africa. 

It will also facilitate networking and visibility across the innovation ecosystem through its membership and offer opportunities for collaboration from drug development to market. 

“Global product development research, driven by local needs, is pivotal to achieving shared global goals,” said Greg Perry, Assistant Director-General of the IFPMA. 

“Some of our partners, including Johnson and Johnson, MSD, and Novartis, already work with H3D. With H3D-F, now is the time to forge long-term relationships that lay the foundation for scientific coordination, communication, and discovery in Africa. IFPMA is proud to support H3D-F’s efforts.”

Africa only conducts approximately 2% of world research on new infections, despite shouldering 20% of the global disease burden.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to bolster Africa’s ability, including its drug innovation capabilities, to face future health emergencies. 

While the continent is better prepared now to contribute to new healthcare threats as they emerge compared to a few decades ago, the disease focus remains narrow and is often not fully aligned with regional priorities. 

In addition, the continent needs “an integrated health innovation ecosystem, investment in robust infrastructure, technology platforms, a critical mass of skilled talent, and job creation”, said Chibale.

While Africa currently hosts over 250 research sites and 73 vaccine clinical trials, fewer than 10 universities offer vaccinology courses and only two local universities engage in vaccine-related pre-clinical studies. 


Image Credits: PATH/Eric Becker, Moderna, INC.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.