Communities of research experts, policy makers and implementers in the regions most affected by NTDs could complement current global efforts against NTDs, particularly in Africa. Therefore, to address the NTD burden from within, the idea of an African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD) was initiated by research fellows who had been supported by the European Foundations Initiative for NTDs (EFINTD).
EFINTD was formed in 2008 by five European Foundations (Cariplo, Gulbenkian, Merieux, Nuffield and Volkswagen) who saw NTD control as representing a largely untapped development opportunity to alleviate poverty in some of the world’s poorest populations, with a huge potential for direct impact on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. EFINTD therefore established a postdoctoral Fellowship Programme (funding scheme) drawing on collaboration between African and European research institutions, and aimed at building up a cadre of African NTD researchers and strengthening African research institutions in the process. The EFINTD program focused on fostering translational or operational research into NTDs that was locally originated and African-led; either by junior researchers who had recently completed their doctorate studies, or experienced researchers ready to take on larger research programmes. EFINTD also funded drug efficacy studies and research on public health drug delivery systems.
By 2013 the EFINTD intervention had yielded a critical mass of successful African NTD researchers (EFINTD Fellows); evidenced by their peer-reviewed outputs, the local and international policy impact of their research, as well as their extensive research collaborations. The Fellows had built on the platform provided by EFINTD to establish themselves as committed and credible researchers, attracting other extramural grants from international donors. As part of their activities, the Fellows have the opportunity to meet once every year as a group to update the foundation and each other on their work and plan towards the future. It was at one of these meetings – the 3rd International EFINTD conference held in Maputo, Mozambique in early February 2012, that the need for a structure that facilitated and promoted the growth of African researchers and their research capacity in NTDs in Africa emerged. Additionally, the Fellows recognized the need to use their experience and expertise to expand the benefits received from the EFINTD in research and capacity building to empower the next generation of African NTD researchers. Further discussions were held among the Fellows and the Foundations in Kumasi, Ghana in August 2013, which later resulted in the creation of the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD).