The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has signed two partnership deals worth R370 million with the SA Medical Research Council (MRC) and University of Cape Town (UCT), it was announced on Tuesday.
The partnerships’ purpose was to develop new medicines, vaccines and other biotechnologies against HIV/Aids, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria, they said in joint statement.
The partnerships would be led by South African scientists, and would be backed by the South African government’s departments of science and technology, and health.
The MRC would receive about R125 million (US11.7m) from the BMGF, for its strategic health innovation partnerships (Ship) unit.
Ship is expected to lead and fund world-class research aimed at developing Aids and TB vaccines.
The department of science and technology would contribute R130m and the department of health would grant R60m to Ship unit over a three-year period.
“The MRC’s initiative to create Ship gives South African scientists a unique opportunity to lead the process of developing new technologies to improve health,” said MRC president Prof Salim Abdool Karim.
“South Africa has one of the worst HIV and TB epidemics in the world, and stands to be among the biggest beneficiaries of future successes in this programme.”
UCT’s drug discovery and development centre, H3-D, would receive about R55m (US5m) from the foundation over a five-year period.
This would fund the centre’s work on integrated modern drug discovery and pre-clinical development, and the development of novel clinical drug candidates to address TB and malaria problems.
The centre has already received R50m from Ship and the Technology Innovation Agency.
A collaboration in 2012 between H3-D and the Medicines for Malaria Venture resulted in the discovery of a novel chemical compound with the potential to affect malaria control and eradication.
The clinical candidate would enter human clinical trials this year.
“Africa’s population is set to double by 2050, and Africa needs to start discovering and developing medicines for its own people,” said H3-D director Prof Kelly Chibale.
In an annual letter, Gates said there would be few or no poor countries left in the world by 2035.
“I am optimistic enough about this that I am willing to make a prediction,” the Microsoft founder said in the letter, which is on the BMGF website.
“By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. (I mean by our current definition of poor.)
“Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer,” he wrote.
“Countries will learn from their most productive neighbours and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution.
“Their labour forces, buoyed by expanded education, will attract new investments.”