Eric d’Ortenzio, coordinator of the REACTing network led by Inserm, spoke at the opening of the 4th conference of the West African Consortium in Bamako. In the context of an international conference that aims to strengthen clinical research capabilities in the countries of West Africa, particularly in the fight against emerging infectious diseases, the public health physician discussed the PREVAC immunization trial as a successful example of a Global North-South partnership in the area of clinical research.
Over the last two decades, communicable emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever, dengue, Zika and plague have become a major recurrent concern, particularly in West Africa. It was against this background that Guinea, Mali, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire decided to come together to form the West African Consortium, with a view to preparing more effectively for future epidemics. The 4th conference of the consortium (October 16-18, 2018, in Bamako) is focusing on ways to strengthen clinical research capabilities in the post-Ebola era. This is a key area of interest for Inserm, which is actively involved in enabling activities in the countries of the Global South (Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia), notably through the Aviesan Sud group, coordinated by Inserm within the Aviesan alliance.
In his opening conference speech, d’Ortenzio spoke about one of these flagship programs: the Partnership for Research on Ebola VACcination (PREVAC) trial, which is designed to evaluate three immunization strategies that include different potential vaccines against the Ebola virus. This project is supported by an international consortium that includes Inserm, the American National Institutes of Health (NIH), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and the health authorities in the four countries taking part in the study (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Mali). Inserm is sponsoring the trial in Guinea. The trial is being conducted in partnership with the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) non-governmental organization.
Strengthening local infrastructure, training staff, and engaging communities
To date, the trial has enrolled over 4,500 healthy volunteers across four countries. It has also contributed to strengthening local research infrastructure, and provided clinical research training to a significant number of individuals in West Africa. Major social mobilization and community engagement work has also been carried out by teams of socioanthropologists and community counselors in order to explain the value of this project to local communities and get them on board.
“Strengthening clinical research capabilities through this kind of program is essential for the countries of West Africa. This will enable them to better anticipate and better tackle future health challenges. Inserm is not alone in holding these ambitions, and you are our partners,” concluded d’Ortenzio in his address to the West African Consortium.