Bridging Beyond Infectious Diseases: A Shift in Focus for African Clinical Sites

Commentary Contributed by Isaac B. Agbugblah and Ernest K. Boamah, Mursi Biosciences 

April 12, 2024 | Africa faces a dual healthcare challenge with the persisting burden of infectious diseases and the escalating prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). This shifting paradigm underscores the urgent need for African research sites to broaden their focus beyond infectious diseases and engage more robustly in NCD clinical research, with sponsors playing a pivotal role in actively ensuring clinical site participation. The prevalence of non-communicable diseases—encompassing conditions like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease—is on the rise across the African continent. The burden of infectious diseases, while persisting, is now compounded by the increasing challenges posed by NCDs.   

What we've discovered through our interactions with these clinical sites is a shared commitment to addressing the pressing health challenges that afflict African populations. These sites are welcoming to expand their research portfolios to encompass NCDs, recognizing the immense impact that such studies can have on improving health outcomes and enhancing the quality of life for millions across the continent. The recognition of the evolving health needs within their communities drives this eagerness, propelling them toward a new frontier of non-communicable disease research. Their proactive stance is not merely theoretical; they are ready to repurpose their facilities to accommodate the unique demands of NCD studies.   

The increasing enthusiasm from African sites presents a significant opportunity for the global research community to advance NCD clinical research through impactful collaborations. By engaging more African investigators in multicenter NCD studies, clinical trial sponsors can ensure that research questions and study designs are tailored to the needs, priorities, and realities of African patient populations. The transformative journey of clinical sites in Africa requires active engagement from global sponsors. Sponsors are presented with a timely opportunity to facilitate this shift by increasing efforts to bring non-infectious disease clinical trials to these sites. The involvement of African investigators in addressing the escalating burden of NCDs through innovative research partnerships is a pivotal step toward creating a more inclusive and impactful global health ecosystem. Beyond funding, sponsors play a pivotal role in shaping the narrative of this transformative journey. We want to emphasize that sponsors are not just financial contributors; they are strategic partners influencing the direction of clinical research in Africa.  

As the prevalence of non-communicable diseases steadily increases across Africa, it becomes increasingly apparent that many drugs developed to treat these conditions will eventually reach the region. Diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer pose significant health challenges to African populations, driving a growing demand for effective treatments that can alleviate their burden. Across the continent, healthcare professionals grapple with the escalating challenges posed by conditions like diabetes and hypertension, striving to provide effective management amid increasing prevalence rates. Meanwhile, oncology centers confront the stark reality of late-stage cancer diagnoses and limited access to advanced treatments. Early development of treatments offers several advantages for Africans, particularly in biomarker-driven trials targeting cancer. By initiating drug development efforts early, researchers can refine treatment strategies based on biomarker responses. This approach ensures that Africans gain early access to tailored drugs, addressing their unique healthcare needs. Moreover, early assessment of efficacy in biomarker-driven trials provides valuable insights into treatment response rates and potential adverse effects, empowering African healthcare providers to make informed clinical decisions and optimize patient outcomes.  

The inclusion of African researchers in the international conversation about NCDs is not merely symbolic but holds profound implications for the future of global health equity. By empowering African researchers to lead and collaborate on NCD studies, we not only foster a sense of ownership and empowerment within local communities but also ensure that interventions are culturally sensitive, contextually relevant, and sustainable in the long term. 

In conclusion, the enthusiastic response from clinical sites across Africa to engage in NCD clinical research represents a significant milestone in the journey towards achieving health equity and addressing the burden of NCDs on the continent. By harnessing the enthusiasm of African researchers and directing it towards collaborative research endeavors, we can elevate their voices on the global platform and lay the groundwork for more comprehensive and impactful strategies in NCD treatment and prevention. This strategic move is essential not only to prepare African sites for the impending disease burden but also to foster inclusivity in the global pursuit of a healthier world. The synergy between clinical sites and sponsors is paramount in steering African research towards a more comprehensive and impactful role in the fight against both infectious and non-communicable diseases. 


Isaac Buertey Agbugblah, a clinical researcher, is committed to advancing equitable healthcare solutions in Africa. Formerly a Research Assistant at the University of Health and Allied Sciences in Ghana, he now serves as a Research Associate at Mursi Biosciences. Buertey is dedicated to pioneering innovative solutions in clinical biomarker development. He can be reached at 

Dr. Ernest Boamah, a clinical scientist, is committed to advancing clinical drug development in Africa. Having previously held key roles in Translational Development across multiple pharmaceutical companies, he now serves as the Laboratory Director at Mursi Biosciences.  His passion for health equity fuels his efforts to shape Africa's healthcare future. He can be reached at 

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