Flagship programmes identified for the South African Malaria Initiative

The Malaria Initiative for Africa (MIA) recently underwent a name change to SAMI – the South African Malaria Initiative. The initiative resulted from the deliberations of a core group of researchers from around the country who met at the University of Pretoria in January this year to discuss a collaborative initiative to promote the use of advanced biotechnologies in malaria drug discovery, diagnostics and epidemiology.

SAMI is today a national initiative spearheaded by ACGT for which a business plan was submitted to the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in May this year. Dr Shaidah Asmall, responsible for the DST health portfolio, arranged a presentation of the business plan to senior staff at the Department. It was agreed that DST would provide seed funding to gather more information on the scale of the malaria problem, the international funding situation, and identifying the local players in malaria research.

An external consultant was contracted to provide the required information and two reports were submitted to DST. In September 2005, DST also sponsored a highly successful workshop held for all the major players, including international participants from India, Brazil, Australia, Thailand, Ghana, and the World Health Organisation.

At this workshop flagship programmes were agreed in principle and have been incorporated into a revised business plan. The flagship programmes will focus on drug discovery, diagnostics and the parasite-vector interface and molecular epidemiology. The revised business plan has been submitted to DST and feedback is awaited.

The ACGT will retain the administrative responsibility for SAMI.