Professor Kelly Chibale of the University of Cape Town has discovered a single oral dose anti-malaria drug suitable for the treatment of malaria in varied climatic conditions.
From a library of about 40, 000 drug leads, he successfully obtained a single oral dose of one of the front runner compounds to provide a complete cure in a mouse model.
Professor Emeritus Rose Gana Fomban Leke, University of Yaounde1, Cameroon, announced on Friday at the close of the 2014 Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lecture at the University of Ghana, Legon.
She expressed delight that “this is the first time an African-based scientist is moving a new drug into human trials. This drug will have great potential to curb artemisisnin resistance that has emerged.”
Professor Leke said as far as innovation in drug discovery was concerned it was good news that an African has discovered animalaria drug.
She expressed regret numerous weaknesses faced scientific research in Africa, saying: “we do not have a research culture that we pass on to younger generation as we do with other cultural practices.”
Professor Leke said it was unfortunate Africans viewed every disease as linked to the role of ancestors or the ‘magic evil eye’ and that no lessons had been learnt despite considerable progress made in education on biological basis of diseases.
“Scientific research should address national priorities, but very often those priorities were not set while most research depended on external funding tied to donor priorities”, she added.
She said capacity in terms of infrastructure, financial and human for carrying out research were also lacking.
There is limited access to information; internet access is still a major problem, communication within research teams or existence of research teams and among different researchers in the same institution or country is often lacking.
She said regulatory frameworks were absent or very weak while ethical committees did not exist.
Notwithstanding the obstacles, scientific research for health has moved on, though, slowly in Africa, some countries moving quite fast and with much success.
Professor Leke observed that the pharmacological potential of natural substances from African medicinal plants was well known, therefore, research on medicinal plants needed the collaboration of the scientists and the traditional healers to extract indigenous plants to the forefront of a drug industry for Africans by Africans.
“We need to invest in research that pushes boundaries, advances health innovation and uses disruptive technologies to accelerate progress toward development goals,” she added.
She said the African continent possessed the ingenuity and innovative entrepreneurial spirit that is necessary to fuel ground-breaking research and that ought to be utilized to the fullest.
The Professor pointed out that adequate science capacity would allow African countries to become autonomous in scientific research, improve their ability to collaborate internationally, raise global standing and boost economies by increasing productivity.
She called for an African-driven research agenda, rigorous capacity building on the continent, equitable collaborative international relationships, increase in quality publications by African health researchers and advocacy efforts for research and for increased funding.
“Advocacy efforts should be bolstered to entice African governments to the commit at least 0.01 percent of Gross Domestic Product to support research on health”, Professor Leke, added.