The West African Network for TB, AIDS and Malaria (WANETAM) was set up in 2009. It is one of the four NoEs established by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) to combat poverty-related diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis HIV/AIDS, and other diseases.
It included 14 institutions in 7 countries, namely The Gambia (Medical Research Council [MRCG], National Public Health laboratory[NPHL]), Burkina Faso (Centre Muraz, [CNRFP]), Nigeria (University of Ibadan, Innovative Biotech, Nigerian Institute for Medical Research [NIMR]), Mali (Malaria Research and Training Center [MRTC]), Ghana (Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, [NMIMR], University of Ghana), Guinea Bissau (Bandim Health Project) and was coordinated by Senegal (Laboratory of Bacteriology-Virology-[RARS/LBVUCAD]). The network was further strengthened within the last two years by the contribution of EU member-states (Belgium and UK) initiated research project (WANETAM-plus), which allowed the inclusion of other African institutions, e.g. CNHPP, CREC (Benin).
The targeted general objectives of WANETAM 1 were:
- Capacity building & Technology transfer to prepare West African institutes for the successful conduct of clinical trials.
- To create of a network for sub-regional scientific collaborations.
At the end of the first phase, WANETAM was able to create a collaborative research network of scientists from Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone countries in West Africa. It supported short-term training activities that built both laboratory and clinical skills in the field of HIV, Malaria, and TB as well as in cross cutting disciplines, in view to support proficiency in clinical research.
The network supported short-term training activities that built both laboratory and clinical skills in the targeted diseases, and in cross-cutting disciplines necessary for proficiency in clinical research. Such training included (amongst others) TB and HIV molecular diagnostic techniques, high-throughput molecular research techniques, immunological flow cytometry and multiplex assays, GCLP and GCP, Laboratory Equipment Maintenance skills, Ethics training, community support and engagement.
WANETAM also supported long-term training, e.g. MSc; infrastructure development at weaker sites; hands-on surveillance training on,
e.g. multi-drug resistant TB ; establishment of normal values of haematological and biochemical parameters in African subjects ; antimalarial drug resistance monitoring, including molecular markers, development of Biomedical Maintenance and Engineering Units at some sister institutions.
During this program, the stronger Institutions, namely the MRCG and the RARS in Senegal have developed their own clinical trial Units and attained laboratory accreditation ISO 15189 (KENSA/ML/30 for MRCG; IQMH/3355for LBV) while helping sister institutions to develop their own capacities. The MRCT Mali has built a strong and efficient system of accreditation (Guindo A…Doumbo AJTMH 2012).
While recognizing the achievements, evaluation and SWOT analyses at the end of WANETAM identified the need for targeted training on strategic skills and for a better use and sharing of platforms and resources; for supporting weaker institutions towards GCLP, and for developing a training and mentorship plan to support career and leadership development of talented individuals.
This continuation of WANETAM-will build on these achievements and further strengthen capacity through training structured within specific thematic nodes of excellence for TB, AIDS and Malaria. However, there is the need to build capacities in other diseases that represent a major burden for the local populations. These include the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which caused a major epidemic in 2015 in West Africa and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
Therefore, WANETAM- will carry out a limited but essential clinical and laboratory capacity strengthening program for NTDs and Ebola. The proposal is divided into work packages for thematic nodes of excellence on specific diseases, including NTDs and Ebola, and for cross-cutting training. The former will provide project-based training, diagnostics and prevention methodologies training, and optimal sharing of resources and platform infrastructure to improve preparedness for future clinical trials; the latter will aim at developing strategic skills and leadership [Fig 1]. This approach will contribute to attain a stronger and sustainable West African research platform and nodes of excellence as it will allow a focused development pathway in capacity strengthening while avoiding some of the fragmentation and inefficiency experienced during WANETAM 1.