Europe mobilises full research potential to combat poverty-related diseases
EDCTP launch conference, Barcelona, 19-20 April 2002
On 19-20 April, 2002, a conference, co-organised by the European Commission (DG Research) and the Spanish Presidency, will launch the first phase of the European-Developing Countries Clinical Trials Programme (EDCTP) – a new programme to accelerate the clinical development of drugs and vaccines against poverty-related diseases: AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The EDCTP initiative is intended to bridge the gap between dispersed research efforts in Europe and the production of drugs and vaccines for Developing Countries.
The establishment of a clinical trials programme tailored to the needs of developing countries addresses the major global priority to combat the major poverty-related diseases - AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. These diseases kill over 5 million people each year and cause massive disruption to the economies of developing countries. This vicious circle of poverty and disease makes it increasingly difficult to combat these diseases. The situation is particularly critical in sub-Saharan Africa, where the European-Developing Countries Clinical Trials Programme (EDCTP) has decided to focus its attention initially. Of even greater concern is the fact that today there is no suitable effective way to prevent AIDS, malaria or TB. This is partly due to the economic situation in Developing Countries which makes significant industrial investment in those diseases commercially unviable for the private sector. Thus it is the responsibility of the public sector to bridge this gap.
“Europe can contribute significantly to the response to the global problem of poverty-related diseases if it brings together its dispersed forces [in research and development] in a coherent manner. It is important for public authorities to initiate the process because clearly there will not necessarily be an economic return for industry,” said European Commissioner for Research Philippe Busquin. However, industry may join and may wish to create a public-private partnership if they see that the public sector is ready to share part of the risk.
The European Commission is strongly committed to the EDCTP initiative and proposes to contribute €200 million in the next European research Framework programme (2002-2006). To "Stress the health and education focus of the EU’s development co-operation policies as part of its over-arching objective to combating poverty" is one of the Commission’s seven core priorities for 2002 . In this global political framework, the Programme “Accelerated action against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis” in the context of poverty reduction adopted by the European Council on 15 May 2001 is based on three pillars: trade, development and research. For the latter, it will be the first attempt of a joint research programme between the European Community and the Member or Associated States in line with idea of a European Research Area. “The idea is that Europe, through a series of joint programmes directed at basic research and development and through clinical trials of new drugs and vaccines or other therapies, can contribute to better prevention, better control and better treatment of these diseases in Developing Countries,” said EDCTP member Dr. Antoni Trilla from the Hospital Clinic Barcelona.
The European Commission, together with 15 European countries has recognised this emergency and the urgent need to pool all forces. In the joint programme of the EDCTP European research efforts will be mobilised in a coherent fashion. The EDCTP will exploit the vast amounts of relevant research results already generated within the respective national research programmes by enabling the clinical testing of promising vaccines and drugs and their rapid transfer to clinical application. The integration of Community and national programmes will be achieved by co-ordinating, networking and pooling of research activities. The EDCTP should provide incentives for industry to join. Therefore, the major goal of the EDCTP is to move new vaccines and drugs from basic research into clinical trials, conducted under the highest quality and ethical standards.
The purpose of this conference will be to launch the first phase of the EDCTP and to gather strong political support for this initiative. This first phase, which is expected to last 12 months and is funded by a €1.2 million grant from the European Commission, is led by the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona.
Representatives of European countries and African delegates have been meeting over the past few months and have worked closely together to define the EDCTP’s strategy, priorities and modus operandi. This EDCTP launch conference brings together the main actors from European and African governments, the scientific community, international organisations, foundations and pharmaceutical companies. It is intended to formerly introduce and explain the EDCTP initiative to all stakeholders.
Political figures participating in the event include Mr Pascal Mucumbi, Prime Minister of Mozambique; Mrs Awa Coll-Seck, Minister for Health of Senegal; Mrs Celia Villalobos, Spanish Minister for Health; Mr Ramon Marimon, Secretary of State for Science and Technology; and Mr Philippe Busquin, European Commissioner for Research.
The conference will begin at 10:00 with the presentation of the EDCTP. The first day of the conference will concentrate on health policy and funding issues. The second day will focus on health research for development with leading researchers and healthcare experts on the prevention and treatment of these diseases, with specific sessions for each of the three diseases. The conference programme is available on-line: http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/edctp.html.
A press conference will be held on the first day from 11:00-11:45, followed by a lunch with all the speakers. There will also be opportunities to interview high level scientists and political figures from Europe and Africa.
Stéphane Hogan | alphagalileo