Gates Foundation Takes New Partners in South Africa

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa- After the recent success in eradicating polio in India, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has formed new partnerships with groups in South Africa to fight HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

In late January, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced its new partnerships with the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the University of Cape Town (UCT.) Together, these groups will work to develop both new medicines and vaccines for these ailments.

South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, with almost six million people infected with the disease as well as a high number of TB infections and over 219 million cases of malaria. Approximately 90% of all malaria deaths in the world occurred in Africa, with the most cases affecting children under five years old.

The partnership with the MRC’s Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships (SHIP) will receive about 11.7 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and additional funds from both the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Health to research HIV and TB vaccines.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a press release that, “SHIP’s role will be to build on the scientific leadership of South African scientists in these diseases and establish, fund and manage research programs on innovative products and approaches to prevent AIDS and TB.”

The SHIP program will give South African scientists an exceptional opportunity to lead these research and development projects to improve health in the country and the continent. The MRC’s president said in regard to the partnership, “Ultimately our goal is simple. We want to improve the quality of life of all South Africans.”

The second partnership with the UCT will go towards the University’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3-D.) The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will donate 5 million to the UCT’s program over five years while they work on trying to develop drug candidates for both TB and malaria. The center is also receiving funds from the Technology Agency, which is being funded by the department of science and technology.

The university’s current vice-chancellor, Thandabantu Nhlapo, has also spoken about the impact that the partnership with the Gates Foundation will have for the UCT and for the country. Nhlapo has called the foundation’s donation a “vote of confidence” in the university’s scientists. Furthermore, the partnership would give the resources to these African scientists to solve the problems that are having such a large impact on the continent’s population.

Nhlapo went on to say, “Research creates jobs, career opportunities and infrastructure, and helps reserve the brain drain. People will come and work in Africa if it is exciting to do so.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has expressed its hopes for these new partnerships. The foundation’s president of the Global Health Program, Trevor Mundel, emphasized South Africa’s world-class researchers and organization that is necessary to find solutions and work against TB, HIV, and malaria among other diseases.

Mundel also said that the new partnerships, “have enormous potential to tackle the tough challenges and support those most in need in South Africa and across the continent.”

– Julie Guacci

Sources: Business Day Live, Mail and Guardian
Photo: Mail & Guardian

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