New African-led health R&D network launched to increase innovation and access to medicines

By Azim Datardina

11 October, Nairobi, Kenya: The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that they have joined forces to establish an African-owned and governed initiative to promote innovation for the development of pharmaceuticals and other products to meet the health needs of the continent. The African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI) is organized to build research capacity on the continent and link biomedical innovation to development and public health. This announcement came at the opening of the 3rd ANDI stakeholder meeting in Nairobi Kenya, which brought together over 500 experts, policy makers, donors and Africans in the diaspora.

"This marks an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to support African-led science to generate innovation for health and produce health products that address the important health problems in the Region," said Dr Luis Sambo, Regional Director of the African Region of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Under the terms of the new agreement, ANDI will be hosted by UNECA, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Mr Abdoulie Janneh, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNECA Executive Secretary, said, “ANDI presents a unique opportunity and represents a powerful mechanism for mobilizing Africa health research capability, unleashing African health innovation potential and expanding global partnerships and regional collaborations to accelerate the delivery of quality health care in Africa.”

The goals of ANDI include:
· Increase research and development collaboration among African institutions and countries;

· Foster public-private partnerships within Africa to support the development and manufacture of new drugs and health products;

· Generate and manage intellectual property and explore innovative mechanisms to encourage and reward local innovation, including research drawing on traditional medicine;

· Promote long term economic sustainability through supporting R&D.

The ANDI concept was launched at a meeting of stakeholders in Abuja in 2008, and a year later, a second stakeholder meeting in Cape Town adopted a strategic business plan that was developed with support by WHO through the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), several African institutions and researchers and McKinsey Associates.

"ANDI is a promising initiative to increase access to treatments for diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries through health innovation, with a strong regional ownership," said Aristotelis Bouratsis, Director of the EuropeAid Co-operation Office, European Union.

The 3rd ANDI stakeholders meeting and high level forum is hosted by the Government of Kenya and is being held at the United Nations Office (UNON), in Nairobi, Kenya from October 11-13. The meeting will also announce further progress in the development of ANDI such as:

· The ANDI Governing Board to oversee ANDI implementation in Africa

· The first call for applications for ANDI research projects

· Initiation of the databases of African institutions, researchers and capabilities

· The ANDI network of African R&D centres of excellence

· Creation of an ANDI Fund to support the projects