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Keeping up Africa’s science momentum

National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
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National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

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We at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) are encouraged by Africa’s growing ownership of its biomedical research enterprise (see A. Atickem et al. Nature 570, 297–300; 2019). In ten years, NIH funding support for African scientists has advanced from subcontracts in US institutions to one-third of merit-based grants awarded to foreign institutions.

For example, the Human Heredity and Health in Africa project — in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and the African Society of Human Genetics — funds research to tackle local health challenges. With the AAS and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, the NIH launched the African Postdoctoral Training Initiative, which admits African postdocs to our two-year intramural programme and supports them for a further two years after they return to their home institutions. Africa’s governmental, scientific and business leaders strongly support these and related efforts, and have formed a unique partnership to promote sustainable and autonomous biomedical research (see https://aasciences.ac.ke/cari).

Under such awards, Africa’s scientists serve as lead investigators responsible for formulating research plans and directing resources. Recent advances in HIV prevention, now globally applied, are the direct result of their innovative capability (see M. S. Cohen et al. Health Affairs 31, 1439–1449; 2012). The long-term success of these early ventures will hinge on African governments’ future investment in research.

Nature 572, 32 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02326-9

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