Africa-led research to tackle the challenge of infectious diseases

Around 50 million people could benefit from a new multidisciplinary research programme that is seeking new solutions to neglected tropical diseases and emerging epidemics in Africa.

Teams of scientists from Africa and the UK will pool their expertise to reduce the burden and threats from diseases like malaria, sleeping sickness, schistosomiasis and lymphatic filariasis.

They will seek to translate research into health technologies and policies that benefit vulnerable communities and better prepare and respond to epidemics such as Ebola.

The African-led £7 million initiative – named Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa, or Tiba, after the Swahili word to cure infection – will last for four years and brings together experts from the University of Edinburgh and nine African countries.

Strengthening Health Systems

Researchers will aim to improve the health of affected populations by seeking to strengthen every part of the health system – improving diagnosis and surveillance, providing better access existing treatments and developing new therapies.

They will be empowered to analyse health systems - identifying gaps in knowledge and sharing good practice - and inform and influence health policies so their efforts can benefit the continent as a whole.

The key to this initiative is that Africa will be setting its own research agenda. We are working closely with governments and drivers of health policy, to ensure recommendations from research are taken up and the people of Africa can benefit from our collective findings.

Professor Francisca Mutapi - Tiba Deputy Director at the University of Edinburgh

Harnessing Collective Expertise

The initiative will involve research teams from Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, supported by experts in infectious disease and global health at the University of Edinburgh.

This project is a unique opportunity to improve the ways that African health systems tackle infectious diseases. By harnessing our collective expertise to gain a better understanding of what works best, we hope to reduce the burden of infectious disease for millions of Africans.

Professor Mark Woolhouse - Tiba Director at the University of Edinburgh

Tackling Knowledge Gaps

The launch of the initiative also includes the announcement of nine, one-year rapid impact projects - each led by an African partner.

Each project will tackle a specific knowledge gap which either leads to a lack of diagnosis or the absence of treatments/systems to tackle the disease. The data and insights generated will influence the direction of the rest of the programme.

Tiba is funded by the National Institute for Health and the Global Challenges Research Fund. The programme draws from experts in infection biology, clinical medicine, primary health care, health systems, international development, governance and ethics, diagnostics, surveillance and epidemiology, molecular biology and drug development, immunology and vaccinology, genomics and bioinformatics, synthetic biology and innovation.