The World Health Organisation (WHO), in its quest to find efficacious therapies to treat COVID-19, plans to conduct a multi-arm, multi-country clinical trial. The trials have yet to begin, but ten countries have already signed up. Only one of them, South Africa, is on the African continent.
Of course, the WHO isnt the only organisation trying to find treatments or even a vaccine for COVID-19. The United States National Institutes of Health maintains an online platform that lists all registered, ongoing clinical trials globally. On March 26, a quick search of the platform using the term coronavirus revealed 157 ongoing trials; 87 of these involve either a drug or a vaccine, while the rest are behavioural studies. Only three are registered in Africa all of them in Egypt.
This low representation of African countries in clinical trials is not unusual. Poor visibility of existing sites, limited infrastructure and unpredictable clinical trial regulatory timelines are some of the key issues hindering investments in this area.
Africas virtual absence from the clinical trials map is a big problem. The continent displays an incredible amount of genetic diversity. If this diversity is not well represented in clinical trials, the trial findings cannot be generalised to large populations.
The same goes for the outcomes of the COVID-19 studies. They too may not be relevant for people in African countries unless conducted locally. This is because responses to drugs or vaccines are complicated and can be influenced by, among other things, human genetics: different people will respond differently to different drugs and vaccines.
More countries on the African continent must urgently get involved in clinical trials so that the data collected will accurately represent the continent at a genetic level.
Time is of the essence. The usual approach, of developing site or country specific protocols, wont work. Instead, African governments need to look at ways to harmonise the response towards COVID-19 across the continent. Now, more than ever, African countries need to work together.
Africa does have clinical trial infrastructure and capabilities. But the resources remain unevenly distributed. The vast majority are in Egypt and South Africa. Thats because these countries have invested more heavily in research and development than others on the continent.
Traditionally, clinical trials are conducted at centres of excellence, which are sites that have the appropriate infrastructure and human skills necessary to conduct good quality trials. These can be located at a single university or research organisation, or work can be split between a few locations. But setting up these centres requires significant time and financial investment. Most that I am aware of on the continent have developed over the years with heavy support from external partners or sponsors. In many cases, African governments have not been involved in these efforts.
Once such centres are set up, the hard work continues to maintain these centres and to ensure theyre able to attract clinical trial sponsors. They require continuous funding, the establishment of proper institutional governance and the creation of trusted, consistent networks.
Usually African scientists leading clinical trial sites can apply for funding to conduct a trial; if the site is well known the scientists may be approached by a sponsor such as a pharmaceutical company interested in conducting a trial.
Clearly this approach takes time and usually benefits well-known sites or triallists. So what alternatives are available in the face of an epidemic thats moving as fast as COVID-19?
Key stakeholders should work together to expedite the rollout of trials in different countries. This would include inter-country collaborations such as working with different governments and scientists in co-designing trials; and providing harmonised guidelines on patient management, sample collection and tracking and sharing results in real time.
African governments, meanwhile, should provide additional funding to clinical research institutions and clinical trial sites. This would allow the sites to pull resources together and rapidly enrol patients to answer various research questions.
Because of the uneven distribution of skills and resources the continent should also adopt a hub-and-spoke model in its efforts. This would involve countries that dont have much capacity being able to ship samples easily across borders for analysis in a centralised well-equipped laboratory, which then feeds back data to the country of sample origin.
Governments should also form a task force to quickly engage with key pharmaceutical companies with drug candidates for COVID-19. This team should establish the companies appetite for collaborations in conducting relevant trials on the continent.
Through all of this, it is necessary for stakeholders to identify and address key ethical issues that may arise. Ethics should not be compromised by haste.
Every countrys epidemic preparedness kit should contain funds set aside for clinical trials during epidemics or pandemics.
This would require governments on the continent to evaluate their role and level of investment in the general area of clinical trials. This will augment the quality and quantity of clinical trials in the face of the constant challenge of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases as well as a steady rise in non-communicable diseases.
On top of this, clinical trial centres, clinical research institutions and clinical triallists on the continent should strive to increase their visibility in the global space. This will make them easy to find in times of crisis, and enhance both south-south and north-south collaborations.
The African Academy of Sciences is currently building an online platform to facilitate this visibility and encourage greater collaboration.
- Human genetics - Wikipedia - June 22nd, 2020
- human genetics | Description, Chromosomes, & Inheritance ... - June 22nd, 2020
- Human Genetics - David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA - June 22nd, 2020
- Genetic Mutations as a Tool To Predict Lifespan and Fertility - Technology Networks - June 22nd, 2020
- Human Genetics Market Analysis with Key Players, Applications, Trends and Forecasts to 2026 - Farmers Ledger - June 22nd, 2020
- China Is Collecting DNA From Tens of Millions of Men and Boys, Using U.S. Equipment - The New York Times - June 22nd, 2020
- Researchers identify environmental components that affect gene expression in cardiovascular disease - The South End - June 22nd, 2020
- China collects DNA from millions of men and boys - BioNews - June 22nd, 2020
- Exposure and engagement with tobacco-related social media and associations with subsequent tobacco use among young adults: A longitudinal analysis. -... - June 22nd, 2020
- COVID-19 Test Samples: Why Do We Swab Instead of Spit? - The Wire - June 22nd, 2020
- Coronavirus news and updates: Does Florida's spike in cases make it a new 'epicenter'?; mask rules on airplanes from the FAA - USA TODAY - June 22nd, 2020
- The beauty of flaws - NCC Linked - June 22nd, 2020
- Study finds genetic factors that make some more susceptible to Covid-19 - Health24 - June 22nd, 2020
- Assessment of COVID-19's Effect on Precision Medicine Software Market 2020-2024 | Benefits of Precision Medicine to Augment Growth | Technavio -... - June 22nd, 2020
- Wellness Experts Discuss The Importance Of Individualizing Your Approach To Health - Forbes - June 22nd, 2020
- 1.4 million for genetics research on how obesity in pregnancy affects mother and baby - Mirage News - June 9th, 2020
- Aerpio Hosting Key Opinion Leader Call on a Novel Mechanism for the Treatment of Glaucoma - GlobeNewswire - June 9th, 2020
- Amgen To Present At The Goldman Sachs 41st Annual Global Healthcare Conference - Monterey County Weekly - June 9th, 2020
- COVID-19 Pandemic: Global Risks of More Complex Character and the Visions of the Future World - Valdai Discussion Club - May 19th, 2020
- Rothamsted turn to harvesting coronavirus data - Lab News - May 19th, 2020
- Complement genes add to sex-based vulnerability in lupus and schizophrenia - UAB News - May 19th, 2020
- DU to set up School of Public Health - The Indian Express - May 19th, 2020
- Covid-19 research: 45 Bengaluru startups working on medicine, testing methods and vaccine - Economic Times - May 19th, 2020
- Immortalized Cell Line Market Development, Trends, Key Driven Factors, Segmentation And Forecast to 2020-2026 - Cole of Duty - May 19th, 2020
- Worlds Shortest Population Reveal the Largest Genetic Contributor to Height - Technology Networks - May 15th, 2020
- Group of Genes Have Altered Expression in Autism - Technology Networks - May 15th, 2020
- Why can two young and healthy individuals be affected so differently by coronavirus? - Health24 - May 15th, 2020
- Amgen To Present At The Bank Of America Merrill Lynch Virtual Global Healthcare Conference - BioSpace - May 15th, 2020
- Viewpoint: Darwin's 'Descent of Man' is both deeply disturbing and more relevant than ever - Genetic Literacy Project - May 15th, 2020
- Study Finds Low Proportion of Individuals With Autism Receive Recommended Genetic Tests - Technology Networks - May 15th, 2020
- Cats can catch Covid-19 from other cats. The question is: Can we? - STAT - May 15th, 2020
- Deficient Expression of DGCR8 in Human Testis is Related to Spermatoge | IJGM - Dove Medical Press - May 15th, 2020
- Prevail Therapeutics Reports First Quarter 2020 Financial Results and Business Highlights - GlobeNewswire - May 15th, 2020
- Fulcrum Therapeutics, Inc. (FULC) Q1 2020 Earnings Call Transcript - The Motley Fool - May 15th, 2020
- Scientists concerned that coronavirus is adapting to humans - The Guardian - May 11th, 2020
- Coronavirus quickly spread around the world starting late last year, new genetic analysis shows - CNN - May 11th, 2020
- Your genes could determine whether the coronavirus puts you in the hospital and we're starting to unravel which ones matter - The Conversation US - May 11th, 2020
- Yes, COVID-19 is mutating, here's what you need to know - ABC News - May 11th, 2020
- Conservatives Are Not the Only Ones Who Ignore Facts and the Science - Merion West - May 11th, 2020
- Coronavirus in Scotland: Charity warns Covid will cause a spike in ME cases - as it calls for 'harmful' exercise treatment to be banned -... - May 11th, 2020
- Dr. Misaki Wayengera: The Man Behind Uganda's Covid 19 Test Kits - New Vision - May 11th, 2020
- Its In The Genes? Scientists Think Coronavirus Exploits Silent Hidden Mutations In The Body - International Business Times - May 11th, 2020
- From blood clots to 'Covid toe': Experts confounded by series of medical mysteries - The Straits Times - May 11th, 2020
- MET 2020 Slot booking to commence on July 15, Examination dates available at manipal.edu - Jagran Josh - May 11th, 2020
- Vitagene Launches The First FDA Authorized Saliva based Zero Contact COVID-19 At Home Test - Business Wire - May 10th, 2020
- Genetics in focus after coronavirus deaths of siblings and twins - The Guardian - May 10th, 2020
- 'An anvil on my chest': What it's like to have COVID-19 - LancasterOnline - May 10th, 2020
- Coronavirus may have spread to humans as early as October 2019 - study - The Jerusalem Post - May 10th, 2020
- Team reveals genomic history of ancient civilizations in the Andes - UC Santa Cruz - May 10th, 2020
- Regeneron Reports First Quarter 2020 Financial and Operating Results - BioSpace - May 10th, 2020
- Scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Develop Anti-Coronavirus Surface Coating Based on Nanomate... - The Auto Channel - May 10th, 2020
- COVID-19 and food security - Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge - May 10th, 2020
- Val Sheffield elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences - Iowa Now - May 1st, 2020
- DNA gives clues into risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other dementias - Alabama NewsCenter - May 1st, 2020
- Rare Gene Discovered That Nearly Doubles Risk of Developing a Neurodegenerative Disease - Clinical OMICs News - May 1st, 2020
- Progress in understanding the genetic basis of mental health - SFARI News - May 1st, 2020
- Coronavirus was widespread in UK at very start of pandemic, says genetics expert - Sky News - May 1st, 2020
- This is how you do the genetics heritage filter on Instagram that everyone's doing - The Tab - May 1st, 2020
- COVID-19 vaccine in Ireland could take a year and a half - IrishCentral - May 1st, 2020
- MRC scientists elected Fellows of the Royal Society - Cambridge Network - May 1st, 2020
- Parkinson's discovery implicates "second brain" in the gut - New Atlas - May 1st, 2020
- Humans: are we the most effective vector of disease? - BugBitten - BMC Blogs Network - May 1st, 2020
- Could genetics explain why some COVID-19 patients fare worse than others? - Live Science - April 27th, 2020
- Human Genetics Market Overview, Top Companies, Region, Application and Global Forecast by 2026 - Latest Herald - April 27th, 2020
- American Academy of Arts & Sciences Elects UVM's Wallace to Its Membership - UVM News - April 27th, 2020
- The PBS documentary The Gene showcases genetics promise and pitfalls - Science News - April 9th, 2020
- UCLA web app will enlist publics help in slowing the spread of COVID-19 - Newswise - April 9th, 2020
- Why does the new coronavirus kill some people and barely affect others? - Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice - April 9th, 2020
- COVID-19: Few Clinical Trials are Done in Africa. This Needs to Change ASAP. - The Wire - April 9th, 2020
- 'Behavioral suppression' needed to decrease coronavirus infections in Japan: experts - The Mainichi - April 9th, 2020
- The secret call of the wild: how animals teach each other to survive - The Guardian - April 9th, 2020
- Yann Joly on the fight against genetic discrimination - McGill Reporter - April 2nd, 2020
- Science to the rescue? How modern genetics could help save the world from coronavirus - Genetic Literacy Project - April 2nd, 2020
- Oldest human genetic data gleaned from 1.8-million-year-old tooth Haaretz - News Collective - April 2nd, 2020
- Science to the rescue? How modern genetics could help save the world from coronavirus - Alliance for Science - Alliance for Science - April 2nd, 2020
- BHU department claims to have discovered new technology to test COVID-19 - Jagran Josh - April 2nd, 2020
- Stealth BioTherapeutics Reports Fiscal Year 2019 Financial Results And Recent Business Highlights - BioSpace - April 2nd, 2020
- Researchers at U of T developing antibodies to 'neutralize' novel coronavirus before it invades cells - News@UofT - April 2nd, 2020
- What is coronavirus and Covid-19? An explainer - KTVZ - April 2nd, 2020
- Plasmid Market was Valued at US$ 89.52 million in 2018 and is Estimated to Reach US$ 447.68 Million by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 19.5% over the... - April 2nd, 2020