WP2: Making a Difference Projects

What are Making a Difference projects?

Our Making a Difference (MD) projects are flagship collaborations, harnessing African science to contribute to reducing the burden of infectious diseases on the continent, thus making a significant impact on the health of affected populations.  The MD projects are all directly relevant to national health needs, show a clear pathway to impact, especially changes to national or international health policy, and aim to make a demonstrable difference to improving the capacity of national health systems to benefit patients. Each project involves two or more Africa partner countries, has a total budget of up to £500,000 and is scheduled to be completed by September 2020.

Project 1: Novel candidates for anti-malaria vaccines identified using functional monoclonal antibodies in naturally-exposed individuals

Principal Investigators: Sam Kinyanjui, Faith Osier, Gordon Awandare, Billy Ngasala
Partner countries: Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania

The urgent need for a highly effective vaccine against malaria cannot be overstated.  An equally important objective is to enhance the local capacity to contribute to the global effort of malaria vaccine development. Historically, although Africa has contributed significantly to vaccine development through immuno-epidemiological studies and in clinical trials, a large gap in the basic science that underpins these studies exists. Whilst poor laboratory infrastructure and insufficient local scientific capacity accounted for this deficit in the past, the situation is rapidly changing in Africa, with an increasing number of well-equipped and maintained international standard laboratories. The critical scientific mass to support basic science is also on the rise. Ultimately, this project’s goal is to develop local capacity across the whole spectrum of vaccine development from antigen discovery, through vaccine design and finally testing in clinical trials. This project is a first step in this direction and targeted towards vaccine design, thereby adding new and urgently needed vaccine candidates to the development pipeline.

Project 2: Understanding schistosomiasis among children under-five years

Principal Investigators: Moses Chimbari, Upendo Mwingira, Nadine Rujeni, Simba Rusakaniko
Partner countries: South Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe

This study involves an assessment of the burden of schistosomiasis among children under five years of age living in resource poor settings. The data generated from the study will help improve the management of endemic infections by strengthening health delivery systems, develop skills and capacity, improve surveillance systems and coverage, support health seeking behaviour and contribute to evidence-based policy making at national and international levels. The study will generate data quantifying the burden of schistosomiasis among under-fives in four African countries – Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe – and propose strategies for accessing the children for treatment. The work will provide the necessary evidence for policy makers in the study countries to consider including children in schistosomiasis treatment programmes.

Project 3: Contribution of maternal transmission and silent carriers in the epidemiology and persistence of African trypanosomiasis in human and animal populations

Principal Investigators: Charles Waiswa, Maowia Mukhtar, Sue Welburn
Partner countries: Uganda, Sudan

Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) affects neglected populations across Sub-Saharan Africa where it is both a manifestation and driver of poverty. An estimated 21 million people live at moderate to high-risk of infection and HAT is estimated to cause 1.6 million DALYs. Over 80% of reported cases are caused by the species T. b. gambiense. Understanding the role of silent carriers and maternal transmission in maintaining gambiense HAT and rhodesiense HAT in endemic foci, combined with a robust method for identifying carriers is key for sustainable control of sleeping sickness. This multi-disciplinary study will contribute to the evidence base for area-wide interventions across multiple HAT foci in Africa to meet the WHO target for HAT elimination by 2030. The project includes clinical studies to develop case management best-practice for carriers and their children and an examination of epigenetic influences on HAT.

Project 4: Developing and evaluating a comprehensive multiplex peptide array serological diagnostic for use in Africa

Principal Investigators: Francisca Mutapi, Simba Rusakaniko, Takafira Mduluza, Gordon Awandare, Maowia Mukhtar
Partner countries: Zimbabwe, Ghana, Sudan

This project will focus on developing, evaluating and deploying a new tool for comprehensive diagnosis of endemic, epidemic and emerging infectious diseases. Work will be undertaken in three African countries that represent three different disease contexts: nomadic and refugee populations in Sudan; hospital patients in Ghana; and community surveillance in Zimbabwe. The diagnostic tool will be based on the prototype serological infectome chip already developed in collaboration with TIBA Strategic Partner PEPperPRINT. The utility of the tool will be tested in 3 applications: i) diagnosis of endemic and epidemic infections (Sudan); ii) diagnosis of underlying infection during non-specific clinical presentation (Ghana); and iii) national disease surveillance (Zimbabwe).