European Union launches African clinical trials program

In March, the European Union officially launched a new collaboration called the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), to help prepare for large-scale clinical studies of strategies to treat and prevent the major infectious disease killers in the developing world: HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. The money will be used to fund these studies, which may require thousands of volunteers, hundreds of medical personnel and countless data collection forms, as well as physical facilities and equipment.

The EDCTP will link many of Europe's major research institutions, and will build on already existing links between these groups and African sites. Like other efforts underway in this arena, the EDCTP will focus on strengthening capacity for AIDS vaccines and other therapeutic and preventive measures—including drugs, vaccines and microbicides.

The program comes with a funding commitment of €200 million for 2003-2008, but its planners hope for the equivalent of another €400 million in institutional support from research partners, and additional donations from government and private sector sources. Priorities and agendas for the EDCTP will be set by a partnership board of 12 researchers from Africa and Europe. The EDCTP will have a secretariat in the Hague and another at an African location, yet to be determined.