Session virtual link: Digital session.
Gene therapy technology has made impressive recent progress and has potential for treating a wide range of diseases, many of which are important to Africa. Conditions that are of serious public health importance in Africa like HIV and Sickle Cell Disease are amenable to treatment and CURE using gene therapy, thus making the technology of significance to the management of disease on the continent. Furthermore, treatment of viral infections, cancers, inherited diseases and immunotherapy are now all within the realm of gene therapy and likely to be feasible in the long term.
Unfortunately, most gene therapy research aimed at treating conditions that are common to Africa have been performed outside of the continent. Despite its potential importance, direct research on the topic in Africa has been limited as a result of lack of direct public funding and skilled personnel among other reasons.
Participation of African researchers in these exciting developments is currently limited, but their involvement is important to address health problems, develop capacity and enhance economic progress of the continent. Ensuring appropriate legislation is in place for implementing gene therapy is paramount to eventually realizing the potential of this field in Africa. Involving African countries in the process will improve the capacity for modern medically applied molecular biology, assist with tackling health problems of the continent effectively, and enable knowledge-based economies to develop. Strengthening the endeavor should be a priority that will be of extensive benefit to the continent.
In 2020, the Global Gene Therapy Initiative (GGTI) was formed to tackle the barriers to inclusion in gene therapy development, for countries in Africa. This working group includes diverse stakeholders from all sectors and has set a goal of introducing two gene therapy Phase I clinical trials in two countries, Uganda and India, by 2024. GGTI is working with the selected sites to provide knowledge transfer and training including developing new cost effective and sustainable technologies that support place -of-care gene therapy manufacturing infrastructure for clinical trials and eventually therapeutics.