Neglected Tropical Diseases are a constellation of diseases which affect the world’s poorest and robs them of the opportunity to work and thrive in good health. While the African continent is saddled with the highest burden of these diseases, leadership by African scientists to set the agenda for NTD research and advocacy remains limited partly due to funding, but also low research capacity. It is time for a narrative change.
In order to ensure that NTD control programs produce impactful results, building capacity among young African researchers and providing funding support represent promising solutions to retain a critical mass of next-generation scientists with interest in NTDs. To this end, governments and donors continue to forge partnerships that aim to make enormous strides pushing the frontiers of elimination of these diseases.
The African Researchers’ Small Grants Program (SGP), implemented by the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases and funded through the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases with support from the United States Agency for International Development, the Foreign, Commonwealth Development Office from the U.K. government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was designed to fulfill this lofty aim.
Launched in 2017, the SGP provides research funding to individual researchers based on the African continent. With this funding, they can develop solutions to the problems posed by NTDs in their home countries.
In the five years of its inception, the SGP has received about 1446 applications with 66 scientists awarded through the five cohorts. With close to $1.5 million in research funds disbursed, many young African scientists are contributing to research that removes barriers to elimination in their home countries. Through this partnership the SGP initiative is influencing NTD research policy directions to meet the targeted goals in the 2030 WHO NTD Roadmap.
After extensive discussions between ARNTD, COR-NTD, and USAID, the Small Grants Program was created. The first request for proposals (RFP) attracted 97 applicants and six grants awarded.
The RFP for the third cohort resulted in a record 515 applicants out of which thirteen individuals were selected to receive awards. Due to the success of the program, this was also the first year that awardees were able to request up to $30,000 per grant.
SGP V was the final round of joint USAID and UK aid funding. The fifth cohort received 372 applicants, 16 of whom received grants.
The RPF for SGP VI was launched on 1 September 2022 and garnered nearly 300 applicants from over 15 countries. Application review is underway. This marks the first year with additional funding provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
On January 30, 2023 for World NTD Day, we will celebrate the successful implementation of the first 5 years of the program and later in the year the sixth cohort of the Small Grants Program will be announced. Join us in celebrating these young researchers, their research and how their work is making an impact in the community during the World NTD Day: Act Now, Act Together – Investing in Young African Research, an event co-hosted by ARNTD and COR-NTD.