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Overcoming different challenges together
The healthcare industry gives rise to numerous innovations that noticeably improve our quality of life. How can our countries benefit from them?
One of the highest and most important goods for people everywhere on the planet is personal health. The conditions, however, in which people care for and maintain their health are not the same everywhere. But diseases don't stop at country borders. The problems they create are as global as the ethical responsibility to share existing knowledge and expertise. This makes collaboration in the healthcare industry one of the most important fields of international research and scientific partnerships.
Germany, as a high-tech location, doesn't just play a traditionally prominent role in the pharmaceutical industry. Biotechnology and medical technology also ensure that Germany has an excellent healthcare system by international standards based on a healthy research landscape – probably the biggest problem this system faces today are its rising costs.
South Africa, on the other hand, still bears the legacy of the apartheid system in its healthcare system. Although the government of Nelson Mandela already introduced free basic medical care for all South Africans, there are considerable differences between basic government care and private healthcare facilities. In addition, South Africa continues to struggle with epidemic diseases like malaria and tuberculosis and, first and foremost, HIV/AIDS.
German-South African research collaboration is dedicated to these challenges. It aims to speed up the development and evaluation of new vaccinations and drugs for the prevention and therapy of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. This research is primarily conducted within the framework of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). EDCTP was founded as the European Economic Interest Group (EEIG) in 2003 to tackle the challenges of the global health crisis and fight the three biggest diseases linked to poverty: HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. One example of projects funded under the EDCTP is the "Alisa" study, which began in 2011 and will run until 2014, that is being carried out jointly by the University of Munich and the University of Limpopo. A new medical therapy for HIV based on generic drugs will be evaluated with the help of this study. Another, more practically-oriented example is the mobile diagnostics laboratory that was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering and the Stellenbosch University in Cape Town. It was designed for mobile patient treatment with its own integrated analysis laboratory and aims to support the care of patients with infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in the rural region around Cape Town as a rolling diagnostics and therapy unit.
The basic goal of both countries in this area is to strengthen the internationalisation of health research by setting up joint research infrastructure and advance international coordination of research programmes. The idea is to increase the pace of making research findings ready for practical use as well as to share experiences in prevention research and health education which are particularly important for South Africa.
New partnerships and collaborative projects that will be initiated as part of the German-South African Year of Science are intended to give German universities, non-university research institutes and companies the incentive to come up with new approaches for working together with partner facilities in South Africa consistent with their scientific strengths and problem-solving skills. They aim to expand the capacities of German development-related research and create reliable networks for the long term.
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