Malaria still remains a major public health problem in many African countries including the West African Sub-region. While we wait for an effective vaccine, anti-malarial drugs and insecticide-treated nets are the main weapons for our continuous fight for malaria elimination. No single country can sustainably eliminate malaria.
Therefore, we need approaches that span multiple countries. With this in mind, West African scientists and their European colleagues have developed the West African Network for Clinical Trials of Antimalarial Drugs with funding from the European and developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). WANECAM includes four African countries (Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea and Mali) and four European countries (England, France, Germany and Sweden). This network aims at creating a cross-border research team to contribute effectively to the development of new antimalarial drugs for the needs of our people. Since its initiation, WANECAM has convened four meetings: the Kick Off Meeting, the First Investigators Meeting, the International Workshop on WANECAM Standard Operating Procedures harmonization and the Workshop on Ethics held in Bamako (Mali), Bobo-dioulasso/Banfora (Burkina Faso), Sikasso (Mali) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).
In the area of human capacity building we have registered three PhD students (Universities in Germany, Sweden and France), three Master’s students (Universities in Burkina Faso, Mali and Austria). Since we aim to fill the gender gap in scientific research in Africa, half of our students are women. We have also conducted short courses in good clinical practice (GCP), good laboratory practice (GLP), health research ethics, financial management, data management and drivers training. Furthermore, WANECAM has already significantly improved research infrastructure in sites in Sakabe and Niangoloko in Burkina Faso, Mafèrinyah in Guinea, Kolle, Bougoula-Hameau and Sotuba in Mali. Finally, in collaboration with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and its partners Shin Poong (Korea) and Sigma Tau (Italy), WANECAM is about to start Phase III/IV clinical trials of two new GMP grade artemisinin-based combination therapies i.e Artesunate+Pyronaridine and Dihydroartemisinin+Piperaquine. These drugs will soon strengthen the therapeutic arsenal against malaria in our countries.
I cannot conclude this note without warmly thanking the Ministers responsible for Health and Scientific Research and the heads of national malaria control programs in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali for their continued support to our research activities. I also thank EDCTP and MMV for their support. I am particularly grateful to my colleagues both from Africa and Europe, the village leaders and the entire population of our study sites.