KENYA – The Clinical Trials Community Africa Network (CTCAN), has been formed to enable increased, sustainable, and coordinated clinical trials on the continent.

The coalition members include, the Science for Africa Foundation (SFA), BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), Global Public Health R&D, a Division of Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Fondation Merieux, and Medicines Development for Global Health Ltd (MDGH).

The project is receiving support from the Global Health European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP3),  its joint undertaking from the European Union and the EDCTP Association, with a grant of US$1.3 million. 

The network will build on the progress of the Clinical Trials Community (CTC) platform, which was created to increase the visibility of African clinical trialists and sites while contributing increase in clinical trial investments in Africa.

Caxton Murira, Team leader for the SFA Foundation’s Clinical Research and Trials Community program said, “Clinical trials are vital for assessing the safety and efficacy of new drugs in real-world settings, especially in African populations where specific diseases are prevalent and the genetic makeup of the population is diverse.”

Murira added that conducting trials in these populations could lead to better healthcare outcomes for everyone.

The SFA Team leader also added that by working collaboratively, the network is expected to establish a sustainable research environment that benefits patients and the scientific community, making it easier to conduct trials and bring new treatments to market.

SFA is a pan-African, non-profit, and public charity organization that supports, strengthens, and promotes science and innovation in Africa.

The SFA Foundation serves the African research ecosystem by funding excellent ideas in research and innovation.

Also commenting on the platform announcement was Adriaan Kruger, co-founder and CEO of nuvoteQ said, “As a result, the platform will become the central source of essential data for successful clinical trial start-up and execution.”

Kruger added that these data would set the basis for clinical trial sponsors to implement stringent regulatory authority (SRA)-quality clinical trials in Africa, thus enabling African sites to participate in local and international clinical trials regularly and sustainably. (Pty) Ltd is a software company launched in 2015 to provide disruptive research solutions within emerging markets, eliminating the problems inherent in paper-based data collection methods. 

The company’s artificial neural network intelligence engine runs on its own cloud-based solutions and allows its team of statisticians and data managers to do predictive analytics and enable adaptive clinical trial designs. 

Building a platform for better, collaborative clinical trial studies 

The CTCAN will leverage and strengthen features of the CTC platform, an easy-to-use electronic registry of clinical trial sites in Africa.

The CTCAN project will lay the foundation for the creation of a coordinated and sustainable umbrella network of clinical trial sites and laboratories capable of undertaking quality clinical research in Africa. 

The objective is to make the network easily accessible to African and international trial sponsors.

A clinical trial preparedness framework will provide the necessary tools to assess site and laboratory capabilities and any potential quality and operational gaps they may have, along with the instruments to mitigate and overcome these gaps

Specifically, the CTCAN is designed to develop an umbrella sub-Saharan African (SSA) network consolidating relevant subnetworks of clinical trial sites and laboratories.

Subsequently, the platform will supplement the network with epidemiological data associated with the sites and laboratories, as clear and operationalized regulatory information required for clinical trial start-up and conduct.

It will also develop a framework to enhance capacity and increase clinical trial preparedness and make all critical information available through a single electronic platform: the Clinical Trials Community platform.

Jennifer Dent, President and CEO of BVGH mentioned, “BVGH is committed to empowering African investigators to lead clinical trials that erase data gaps and eliminate health disparities for individuals of African descent.”

Dent noted BVGH’s excitement to contribute its expertise in international partnership development, alliance management, and clinical trial training programs.

“As well as best practices established through our African Consortium for Cancer Clinical Trials (AC³T), to further nurture the growth of Africa’s clinical trial ecosystem,” she reiterated. 

BVGH is a non-profit organization, founded in 2003, that forges and manages multinational public-private partnerships across infectious and non-communicable diseases to build clinical trial and early-stage research capacity; foster innovation ecosystems; and expand access to quality healthcare in low- and middle-income countries. 

Through its African Access Initiative, African Consortium for Cancer Clinical Trials (AC³T), and Global Innovation Alliance, BVGH builds and promotes clinical trial capabilities and inclusion in Africa.

Bringing more clinical trials to Africa

According to a BMC Public Health publication on Africa’s health research capacity, Africa accounts for 17% of the global population and bears 25% of the global burden of disease. 

Nevertheless, only 3% of global clinical trials take place on the African continent and those that do, are unevenly distributed and concentrated in only a few countries. 

As a result, most medicines are developed through clinical trials conducted outside Africa without considering the implications of their use in African patients or within African health systems.

It is a widely accepted principle that medical interventions should be tested on diverse populations.

African populations display high genetic variability, resulting in variability in disease prevalence/commonness across different ethnic groups and this is further influenced by additional social and environmental factors.

The CTCAN, supported by Global Health EDCTP3, enables an environment that brings more clinical trials to the continent, including large-scale clinical trials and disease outbreak response activities. 

The network will foster coordination in clinical research by providing a platform for all African stakeholders including clinical researchers, regulators, industry partners, and other relevant stakeholders, to define priority diseases for clinical research. 

The network will also raise awareness of the existing capacity of sites and laboratories across Africa, and contribute to the operationalization and harmonization of regulatory processes across the region.

The new platform will also strengthen less experienced sites and labs through a clinical trial preparedness framework while encouraging inter- and cross-continental knowledge and expertise sharing.

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