The Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE) – administered by the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – has been awarded $5 million USD to create a new scientific network – including SANTHE’s partner institutions based in eight African countries – to focus on vaccine research and development and novel approaches to HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention in sub-Saharan Africa. The funds are bestowed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of their Collaboration for Aids Vaccine Discovery (CAVD) grant commitment.

The grant will leverage the work of SANTHE, an established pan-African research and capacity building consortium led by Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, director for basic and translational science at AHRI, in collaboration with international partners.

The new network – the African Collaboration for Innovation in HIV/TB Prevention – will be housed within the greater SANTHE network with the express purpose to develop locally relevant, innovative, and internationally competitive research; facilitate the professional development of African scientists; and strengthen research ecosystems in the fields of HIV and TB prevention. The current investment will fund innovative research projects, trainee fellowships, leadership development programmes, community/public engagement and diversity/inclusion in science. This integrated approach will expand the pan-African network of research excellence in the areas of HIV and TB prevention, increasing the visibility of African scientists for new and continued strategic partnerships. It also will benefit from the infrastructure and expertise already developed within the SANTHE consortium over the past six years advancing African science and fighting HIV/Aids and TB on the continent.

(Above: Professor Thumbi Ndung’u) 

Ndung’u said he was elated by this news as the new network represents significant investment to promote scientific innovation and collaboration in Africa for diseases that remain leading public health challenges in Africa. “In order to accelerate the reduction in HIV and TB incidence in high-burden regions and populations with the goal of achieving sustained epidemic control, we must widely deploy the current proven prevention and treatment strategies and focus on research that might identify novel biomedical more optimal interventions. The purpose of this grant is to identify and support a broader network of investigators driving innovation in laboratories in Africa, where the burden of HIV and TB is high, to achieve our strategic goal of prevention of new infections. The studies performed through this new African collaboration will generate current and invaluable knowledge to inform vaccine development and other prevention strategies for two of Africa’s most predominant diseases, as well as further develop research capacity and leadership in Africa and globally.”

AHRI executive director Willem Hanekom said, “We believe the new network is well positioned to advance HIV and TB understanding and management. The new grant will enhance African collaboration to address these diseases. AHRI is proud to be associated with these initiatives.”