The African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD) joined the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (COR-NTD) for its 2023 annual meeting.
The platform convenes coalition members to facilitate conversations among researchers, the World Health Organization (WHO), country program managers, implementers, and donors.
The 2-day event which took place at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago, USA, also marked ten (10) years since the Coalition was established as a platform for collaboration in conducting operational research aimed at controlling and eradicating NTDs.
This year’s meeting highlighted several themes and activities. One such theme was the African Researchers’ Small Grants Program (SGP), which was established in 2017 with funding from the United States Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) and the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO). More recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has joined the group of funders.
The SGP initiative was mooted by the ARNTD Board Chair at the time, Dr. Pauline Mwinzi, and Executive Director John Amuasi, with support from the late Dr. Mwele Malecela (WHO NTDs) and Dr. Pat Lammie (TaskForce for Global Health).
Its aim was to keep the pipeline patent for NTD researchers by providing funding for them to conduct research and develop solutions for NTD problems proximal to them. The scheme, implemented by ARNTD through CORNTD on behalf of the funders, has over the past six (6) years, awarded grants to 75 early and mid-career scientists based in African institutions or whose work focuses on Africa.
The Executive Director of ARNTD, Dr. John Amuasi, during his address, emphasized the importance and impact of the collaboration that birthed this funding initiative.
He stated, “This is a clear testament of how when there is a clear agenda, confidence in the ability of partners to deliver, and when there are ready funders, a lot can be achieved within a relatively short time for relatively little money.”
He also underscored the limitation of the focus of the scheme on only the preventive chemotherapy NTDs (PC NTDs) and advocated for the coming on board of prospective funders to provide additional support for the many proposals that are non-PC NTDs based.
In addition to the numerous ARNTD scientists and their mentees in attendance, some awardees from the Small Grants Program were provided travel bursaries to present their preliminary research findings at the event.
The presenters included Ms. Virtue De-Gaulle, Dr. Gladys Mbwanji, Dr. Abdallah Zacharia from the SGP V, and Dr. Moussa Sangare from the SGP VI cohort.
The full address of the Executive Director delivered at the meeting can be accessed by clicking here.