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Research Funding In Sub-Saharan Africa Needs To 'Reflect True Disease Burden'

With the disease burden of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria expected to make up less than 15 percent of the total disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2030, and non-communicable diseases to account for nearly 40 percent of the total in the region, “[a] revision of the approach to research and health care in SSA is therefore urgently needed, but international donors and health communities have generally been slow to respond to the changing environment,” Ole Olesen and M. Iqbal Parker of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in South Africa write in a commentary in Tropical Medicine & International Health. “Private and public funding for health research in Africa remains therefore disproportionately focused on the three major infectious diseases, whereas only smaller amounts have been allocated to confront other diseases,” they write and provide examples.

UNAIDS Director Calls For ARV Production In Africa

“Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibe Wednesday called for the production of anti-retroviral drugs [ARVs] in Africa to make the life-saving medicines against AIDS accessible to patients and boost the medicines manufacturing sector on the continent,” PANA/AfriqueJet reports. Speaking at the 16th West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) Summit in Lome, Togo, “Sidibe said it was time for the continent to negotiate strong partnerships with emerging countries, including India and Brazil, to support the local production of ARVs in Africa,” the news service writes, adding, “According to [Sidibe], Africa accounts for only one percent of the medicine manufacturing sector that is expected to generate as much as $1 trillion by 2015” (6/7).

Magazine Examines Efforts To Biologically Alter Bugs To Fight Human Diseases

Pacific Standard magazine examines efforts by researchers around the globe to biologically modify bugs to fight human diseases, such as dengue fever. “Biologically altering bugs isn’t entirely new; it’s been done for nearly half a century to protect crops. … It’s only recently, however, that scientists have begun experimenting with using this technology to combat human diseases,” the magazine writes, adding, “If they succeed, they could create an entirely new way of stopping not only dengue but other insect-borne scourges, such as yellow fever, West Nile virus, and malaria. And stopping these diseases has never been more urgent.”

Experts Respond To PLoS Editorial Comparing Chagas Disease To HIV/AIDS

“Chagas disease, a parasitic infection spread to humans by insects, is not the new HIV/AIDS of the Americas, according to infectious disease experts who called the comparison,” made in an editorial published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases last week, “‘unrealistic’ and ‘unfortunate,'” ABC News’ “Medical Unit” blog reports. “Rick Tarleton, president of the Chagas Disease Foundation, said the diseases have little in common beyond disproportionately affecting poor people,” the blog notes (Moisse, 6/1).

African-Led Innovation 'Imperative' To Overcoming Health Issues On The Continent

In this post in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog, Carel IJsselmuiden, executive director of the Council on Health for Development Group, writes that “Africa must turn its health research into treatments for African people,” noting, “Despite large investments being made by donors in health products and delivery of health services, a large percentage of Africans still have limited access to sufficient and quality healthcare — especially in rural areas.” He notes that a “recent report, Investing in health for Africa — released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Bank and USAID to name a few of the partners — says average additional spending in sub-Saharan Africa of $21 to $36 could in 2015 alone save more than three million lives, 90 percent of which would be women and children.”

Dengue Fever Vaccine 'May Be In Sight,' Reuters Reports

Reuters reports on efforts to develop a vaccine for dengue fever, writing that “victory over … the intensely painful ‘breakbone fever’ … may be in sight.” Paris-based firm Sanofi “hopes for positive results in September from a key trial among children in Thailand that would set it on course to market a shot in 2015, which would prevent an estimated 100 million cases of dengue infection each year,” the news service writes, noting, “Of 20,000 annual deaths, many are of children.” According to Reuters, “Results from that clinical study, in what is known as the Phase IIb of the international standard three-stage process of assessment, are expected in the third quarter” and “will also be presented for scientific scrutiny at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta in November.”

More Sophisticated Process Needed To Vet Research For Possible Security Threats

Noting that the journal Science last week published the second of two controversial bird flu research papers, in which a team led by Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam created a mutated strain of the virus that spreads easily among ferrets, a Washington Post editorial writes that “this is not the end of the story. Rather, it marks the beginning of an important chapter for both science and security.” The editorial continues, “The United States and other nations need a more sophisticated process for vetting research for possible security threats without discouraging or impairing scientists,” adding, “This is more difficult than it sounds.”

Congressman 'Dissatisfied' With Handling Of Controversial H5N1 Papers Calls For Cohesive Policy For Handling 'Risky' Research

“[D]issatisfied with the government’s handling of two research papers on mutant forms of avian influenza,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) on Wednesday “said that the lack of a cohesive policy for handling risky research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies could necessitate new laws, a situation that researchers have been trying to avoid,” the Nature News Blog reports. “The second of the controversial papers showing that H5N1, or ‘bird flu,’ can spread through the air between mammals was published last week, providing some closure to the months-long debate about the work and whether its publication would result in the proliferation of dangerous viruses and increased risk of an accidental or intentional release,” the blog writes, adding, “Sensenbrenner says not enough work has been done to ensure that such controversies don’t arise again.”

Ghana To Contribute $1M To Fight NTDs

Ghana “will contribute about $1 million towards the prevention and control of endemic neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in order to protect the gains made by the country in Guinea worm eradication and the elimination of trachoma,” the country’s health minister announced on Monday at the opening of a Regional Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting on NTDs, PANA/AfriqueJet reports. Health Minister Albin Bagbin “also called on African countries to support interventions to address NTDs and improve coordination among all stakeholders in implementing NTD programs,” the news agency writes.

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