AstraZeneca Research Trust Awarding R1.5m to Academic Medical Research For Non-Communicable Diseases

The AstraZeneca Research Trust, a non-profitable Trust for the distribution of academic medical research funding, has opened the call for 2017 research proposals. Since its inception in 2014, the Trust has disbursed R3 million in grants and has now confirmed that another R1.5 million has been allocated for new research. The funding is for local high level non-interventional studies, including doctoral and post-doctoral work. Although in the past the Trust has made no attempt to limit the research areas, this year for the first time, a stipulation has been included and research must be geared towards Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

According to WHO, NCDs kill more than 38 million people each year. By far the leading cause of death in the world, 28 million of all NCD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. It’s therefore accurate to say that Africa is sitting on a NCD time bomb and the need for research that will generate significant data currently not available, has never been greater.

Chronic diseases – NCDs are generally slow to progress and fall into four main areas, including cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke, which at 17.5 million deaths annually account for the most NCD deaths. This is followed by cancers (8.2 million), chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma (4 million) and diabetes (1.5 million).

The continent is ill equipped to fight these modern day illnesses and does not have the empirical data to properly manage and treat these potentially life-threatening diseases which are becoming increasingly prevalent and are the curse of Africa.  Further complicating this, the pharmaceutical industry has not traditionally invested in this area of research with funding customarily being allocated to compound and chemical entity developments. With extensive investment into research on HIV infection and TB, there has been little investment and focus on non-communicable diseases.

It is for these reasons the Trust is encouraging the generation of this much needed epidemiological data on non-communicable and other diseases – for without current, accurate data, the extent of the problem cannot be ascertained.

The Trust is an independent body with a sole mandate to administer the allocation of the funds to qualifying researchers. Managed by a scientific steering committee of five highly respected academics from various institutions around the country – they are responsible for screening, reviewing and ultimately with full autonomy, deciding on the apportionment of the grant funding. AstraZeneca has no influence nor can it participate in any decisions made regarding the fund allocation. This will be solely at the discretion of the committee administering the disbursements.

Submissions for grant funding must be made by the 22 November 2016 deadline. All applicants should submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) however preference will be given to Masters, PhD and Post-Doctorates. Successful applicants will be contacted in January 2017, whereby the full proposal will be requested for submission.  Full study proposals must be submitted by 15 February 2017. A six to eight week review period will be allocated for the Scientific Steering Committee to make the necessary decisions with a grant awards ceremony scheduled for May next year.

AstraZeneca believes its grants will help meet a huge area of unmet need on the continent, ensuring the reprioritisation of healthcare initiatives and helping bring specific solutions to unique environments.

This initiative is supported unconditionally by AstraZeneca. Further information can be found at: www.astrazenecatrust.co.za