WITS, Aurum join hands for TB research

The Wits Faculty of Health Sciences together with the Aurum Institute for Health Research has taken a further step towards enhancing tuberculosis (TB) research in South Africa through a joint agreement which was signed in Johannesburg yesterday, Tuesday, 31 July 2012. The Wits Aurum Coalition will facilitate a multi-dimensional approach into research which will tackle a major disease which is overcoming the South African community.
South Africa is burdened by one of the worst tuberculosis epidemics in the world. TB disease rates are more than double those observed in other developing countries. In addition, due to the convergence of the HIV and TB epidemics, South Africa is currently bearing the brunt of a “double burden” of disease.

“The signing of the joint venture between Wits and Aurum is an attempt to harness and eradicate the TB epidemic. The coalition will undertake research “from the bench to the bedside”, as it brings together significant basic science and clinical research expertise in TB in the two institutions,” says Professor Beverley Kramer, Assistant Dean for Research and Postgraduate Support in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
The Aurum Institute is an internationally recognised, specialist research and health systems management organisation with a focus on TB and HIV prevention, treatment and care. Aurum has an international reputation for its work in these fields  and is the recipient of research and other grants from South African and international agencies and institutions for this work.

The Faculty of Health Sciences is similarly recognised for its research into a variety of diseases including HIV and TB. Wits aims to use the opportunity created by the coalition, to further extend knowledge and treatment of TB through the pursuit of ground-breaking research.
“The ultimate aim of this partnership is to take maximum advantage of the diverse research capacity and infrastructure retained at the various Wits research units and departments and the Aurum Institute, to initiate high impact, multi-disciplinary research and training which will have a positive effect on alleviating the burden of TB disease in our country and globally.”
“It is envisioned that these activities will result in the coalescence of expertise and capacity to create a cohesive network of research activity specifically focused on TB,” says Dr. Bavesh Kana, Senior Research Scientist and Head of the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research at Wits.

The agreement entails mutual exploration and support in identifying areas of research that could be advanced, as well as cooperating in using clinical sites for research, service provision and joint exploitation of some of the important epidemiological ventures and sites. It is envisaged that this will extend research opportunities to Wits’ postgraduate students for research projects.
“In the recent past I have realised just how poignant this agreement is. New tools, implementation and operational research are very important for our future plans. We need to do more than just a community-wide intervention, but a combination approach and prevention is needed for tackling tuberculosis. It is quite clear that if we implement our planned policies, South Africa can reach its targets in the fight against tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.”

“We have rounded up the best medical minds at Wits and Aurum to tackle these issues collectively and it will go a long way to meet a national and international need. I am convinced that together we can achieve more, than when we try to do it on our own. I am looking forward in taking this initiative forward with Wits,” says Prof. Gavin Churchyard, Chief Executive Officer of Aurum.

Story by Vivienne Rowland, University of the Witwatersrand – Newsroom