Crawling towards the Nirvana of effective new drugs and vaccines for the big African killers — HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria — the European Commission has taken another important step towards establishing a cooperative international programme to solve a major practical problem in developing new products for Africa: how to do clinical trials in the region.

Last month the EC announced that Commissioners — the top bureaucrats — have approved what is potentially a $600 million, four-year programme, the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). It took three years of gestation, and a final positive meeting with the Director General of the World Health Organization, Gro Harlem Brundtland. Although aimed at all developing countries, at the outset it will focus on Africa.

Antoni Trilla of the University of Barcelona, the Coordinator of the EDCTP, and his colleagues, are still working to define exactly what the partnership will...

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