In a bold move to improve the health of people locally and globally, two research giants in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) are joining forces to form a ground-breaking new interdisciplinary institute to fight tuberculosis (TB), HIV and related diseases.
The new organisation, the Africa Health Research Institute, is located at the heart of South Africa’s TB and HIV co-epidemic. It combines the renowned Africa Centre for Population Health’s detailed population data from over 100 000 participants, with the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for TB-HIV’s (K-RITH’s) basic science, experimental medicine and world-class laboratory facilities.
The new venture is made possible through R1.2-billion in grants from Wellcome Trust and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), with UCL (University College London) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) as significant academic partners.
The Africa Health Research Institute’s interdisciplinary ‘population to laboratory – and back to population’ approach to addressing the TB and HIV co-epidemic comes at a critical moment. Despite advances in antiretroviral therapy and talk of the ‘end of Aids’, HIV and HIV-related TB remain devastating diseases - with TB among the leading causes of death in South Africa. The province of KZN has the highest HIV burden, while TB is responsible for more than 14% of all deaths here. The emergence of drug resistant strains of TB and HIV meanwhile present a major public health crisis.
The Africa Health Research Institute is committed to working towards the elimination of HIV and TB disease. To achieve this, the institute will bring together leading researchers from different fields, use cutting-edge science to improve people’s health, and help to train the next generation of African scientists.
Wellcome Trust and HHMI are two of the largest funders of biomedical research and the establishment of the Africa Health Research Institute represents the first time these organisations have partnered in the global health arena. The complementary strengths of our partner institutions allow a broader scope of interdisciplinary, translational research that is relevant both locally and internationally and is underpinned by strong policy engagement.
"KwaZulu-Natal is at the centre of the dual epidemics of HIV and TB. This is the one place in the world where the marrying of disciplines can have maximum impact on new HIV infections and TB transmission,” said Professor Deenan Pillay, Director of the Africa Centre for Population Health, and incoming Director of the Africa Health Research Institute. “We will link clinical and laboratory-based studies with social science, health systems research and population studies to make fundamental discoveries about these killer diseases, as well as demonstrating how best to reduce morbidity and mortality.”
Our ongoing research areas include:
- the longest running population-based HIV Treatment as Prevention (TasP) trial in Africa
- An innovative research project on human lung granuloma biology, involving close collaboration with surgeons performing lung resections at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital and King Dinuzulu Hospital Complex
- Applying genomics to better understand TB drug resistance