From the 1950s onwards African countries became independent from colonial domination, and embarked on developing their own medical schools and training programmes. The fact that several African institutions had not developed their medical and scientific research and training programmes to international standards, had been a subject of intense debate and discussion. In the 1980s, most research in Africa was conducted by individual western researchers, or was conducted through expatriate-dominated research centres. African governments were unable to invest adequately in sustaining local medical research programmes. In the early 1990s, several African countries took up the challenge and embarked on developing their own African-led R&D programmes, to phase out colonial domination and the unethical practice of parachute and FEDEX postal research (Costello & Zumla 2000, Zumla 2002)
1990: A substantive US- National Institutes of Health (NIH)-RO1 grant for R&D and training on HIV ⁄ AIDS enabled two Zambians, Professor Chifumbe Chintu and Professor Alimuddin Zumla to set up the University of Texas-University of Zambia R&D Project (UTZAM) with Professor Herbert Dupont (UT, Houston, Texas, USA), at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka for R&D and capacity development.
1994-2013: Professors Chintu and Zumla (1994-2004) and Professor Zumla and Dr Peter Mwaba (2004-2013) competitively obtained substantial project and programme grants for clinical trials on several areas of adult and paediatric infectious diseases with a focus on Tuberculosis, HIV//AIDS and respiratory infections: See "Trials and tribulations of an African-led research and capacity development programme: the case for EDCTP investments"
Of 11 major clinical trials in SSA, 7 are now completed. Results of 4 trials have changed global clinical practice and The World Health Organisation’s international management guidelines for TB, TB-HIV co-infection and respiratory infections. The UNZA-UCLMS epidemiological data has defined the extent and severity of the TB/HIV situation and highlighted the emergence and spread of Extensively Drug Resistant TB in Southern Africa. The first UNZA-UCLMS autopsy studies have focussed global attention on previously neglected issues of childhood TB and the need for new management guidelines for respiratory infections. Our basic science and longitudinal cohort studies developed and evaluated new urine, sputum and blood based TB diagnostics and biomarkers. Several evaluations of rapid diagnostic tests for TB in various settings revealed a large load of undiagnosed sub-clinical TB, resulting in global recommendations for more pro-active screening for TB. We have a 6 million Euros EU-FW7 for a multidisciplinary project with industrial partners from France (Genewave) and Finland (Mobidiag) on development of multiplex diagnostic platforms for rapid detection of a range of bacterial (including TB), viral and fungal respiratory tract pathogens at points of healthcare.