By Henry Neondo
Kenya has been selected among nine other African countries that will benefit from a new multi-billion shillings drive in search for an anti-malaria vaccine.
The initiative, Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance (MCTA), was unveiled yesterday in Accra, Ghana in the run-up to today’s Africa Malaria day, marked on April 25 every year.
The project, sponsored by the INDEPTH Network, an organization that brings together field sites engaged in health-related demographic surveillance across Africa, seeks a joint approach in clinical trials of new drugs and vaccines to fight malaria.
Speaking during the launch, Indepth Network Executive Director Prof Fred Binka said the initial focus will be on the Malaria Vaccine Initiatives (MVI) and the Medicines for Malaria Ventures (MMV) trial sites where malaria drug and vaccine trials have already commenced or are about to commence.
Under the project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the tune of Ksh1.2 billion, MCTA will provide training and technical assistance to research centres in recipient countries.
The assistance will go towards management, staffing, database development and setting up of accounting systems in centres involved in clinical trials.
The project has been unveiled at a time when Kenya is grappling with the continued resistance of malaria to current medications thus necessitating urgent investment in the elusive search for a vaccine.
“New malaria drugs and a vaccine are urgently needed in Africa, where malaria has grown resistant to the cheapest and most widely-used treatments. As several promising new drugs and vaccines move through the research pipeline, there is a need to build African capacity to conduct large-scale clinical trials of these drugs and vaccines over the next decade,” said Prof Binka.
He said he was optimistic that the project will be instrumental towards stemming the high death toll occasioned by Malaria which in Kenya kills 100 children under five years daily, is responsible for upto 50 percent hospital visits and admissions costing Kenyan households USD20 annually in treatments and leading to losses of 170 million man-working hours annually to Kenya’s economy .
It is envisaged that through the MCTA project, there will be an increase in the number of self-sustaining clinical research centres in Africa.