University of Zimbabwe secures US$45 Million USAID grant to Develop and Test New HIV Vaccines

By Staff Reporter

The University of Zimbabwe and regional partners have been issued a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) award of over US $45 million to implement the HIV Vaccine Innovation, Science, and Technology Acceleration in Africa (HIV-VISTA) program.

This groundbreaking initiative aims to develop and test novel HIV vaccines in an 8-country African consortium, led by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) CEO and President, Prof Glenda Gray. The BRILLIANT (BRinging Innovation to cLinical and Laboratory research to end HIV In Africa through New vaccine Technology) consortium, comprising leading African scientists from Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, will work together to achieve this ambitious goal. The University of Zimbabwe Clinical Trials Research Centre (UZCTRC) will represent Zimbabwe in this prestigious consortium, contributing to the development of innovative HIV vaccines designed and developed in Africa for Africa.

This project is fruition of the Government of Zimbabwe’s Education 5.0 philosophy to promote the development of home-grown innovations and solutions as emphasized by His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa that “Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo / Ilizw lakhiwa ngabanikazi balo”. This is the first local project that will initiate the HIV vaccine development pipeline from the discovery stage with an objective to come up with vaccine candidates appropriately suited for our population.

Dr Nyaradzo Mgodi, UZ Researcher and Lecturer, and BRILLIANT Principal Investigator, emphasizes the significance of the HIV-VISTA program: “This program presents a unique opportunity for African scientists to conduct research with communities in the region, testing vaccine immunogens developed and designed in Africa. The responsibility to deliver an effective HIV vaccine is a global priority, and we are confident that the HIV-VISTA program will make a significant contribution to this effort.”

The HIV-VISTA program is a major step forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, and the University of Zimbabwe and its partners are honoured to be part of this historic initiative. With the combined efforts of the BRILLIANT consortium, we are closer than ever to finding an effective HIV vaccine that will have a lasting impact on the health and well-being of at-risk populations.

The Director of Research, Innovation and Industrialisation at the University of Zimbabwe, Prof Florence Mtambanengwe, commended the research team for this excellent achievement. The University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor, Prof (dr) Paul Mapfumo (PhD) welcomed the awarding of this grant as a significant milestone in the national health response.

He commented that: “This investment in research and innovative technology for vaccine discovery augments the institution’s research capacity in HIV, and in other disease conditions. Participating in BRILLIANT supports leadership development of UZ faculty, consolidating research management skills of our growing pool of accomplished scientists and better equipping them to fulfil their role in achieving Zimbabwe’ VISION 2030.”

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