The funding was pledged today by the UK Foreign Office Minister responsible for Africa, James Duddridge, and South Africa's Minister for Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, at an event in Cape Town, South Africa, as part of a broader collaboration between the two countries on scientific research. It will be used to support researchers from South African institutions conducting research projects in NCDs, aligned with the objectives of GSK's Africa NCD Open Lab.
£2.5m will be provided by the UK MRC, via the UK Newton Fund - a government fund established in 2013 to develop science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries - and approximately £1.5m will come from the South African Medical Research Council. GSK will provide an additional £1m, together with a commitment of internal R&D expertise, to support projects within South Africa. As the first initiative to receive support from the UK / South Africa Newton Fund, this is significant external endorsement for GSK's open approach to NCD research in Africa.
Alongside the funding confirmed today for South African research proposals, GSK will also commit a further £4m to support successful proposals for NCD research from selected countries elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. The call for proposals from these countries will launch later in 2014.
The Africa NCD Open Lab was established by GSK earlier this year as part of a series of strategic investments in sub-Saharan Africa. In this region, and across developing countries, non-communicable diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, pose an increasing threat, and more needs to be done to understand the specific variations of disease in this setting. The Africa NCD Open Lab aims to address this through the creation of an innovative research network that will see GSK scientists collaborate with researchers across Africa on high quality epidemiological, genetic and interventional research, from its hub at GSK's Stevenage R&D facility in the UK. The aim is that this will help build local expertise, creating a new generation of African NCD experts, while instilling a deep vein of "African thinking" within GSK's own R&D organisation.
This builds on the success of GSK’s Open Lab in Tres Cantos, Spain, which was established in 2010 to give independent researchers access to GSK facilities, resources and knowledge, to help them advance their own projects in to diseases of the developing world, such as malaria, tuberculosis and leishmaniasis. Since the Tres Cantos Open Lab was established, 14 projects from world class institutions have completed, progressing much needed research into diseases of the developing world.
Patrick Vallance, President of Pharmaceutical R&D at GSK, said: "The funding announced today is a great endorsement of GSK's open research philosophy, and signifies growing agreement among the scientific community that collaboration is key to defeating some of the world's biggest health problems.
"We believe that by providing support to African institutions as they carry out their own research in to the chronic disease variants that most affect the African people, the NCD Open Lab will play a key role in helping to tackle disease in this area."
An official call for proposals, seeking interest from researchers from South Africa and wider sub-Saharan Africa, will be launched later in 2014, to begin in the second quarter of 2015.
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