Making a global health research partnership work

15 June 2023

Writing in the BMJ Global Health, Francisca Mutapi, Geoff Banda and Mark Woolhouse share their actionable recommendations for successful equitable global health research partnerships.

The three case-study authors have been part of the Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa (TIBA) partnership since it was established in 2017. TIBA is a global health research and delivery partnership with a focus on strengthening health systems to combat neglected tropical diseases, malaria and emerging pathogens in Africa. With a starting budget of under £7 million, and in just 4 years, TIBA has demonstrated significant impact on advancing knowledge, policy making and capacity building in multiple African countries.

TIBA is an Africa-led partnership funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) that brings together expertise and technical capabilities in biomedical and social sciences at ten partner institutions to promote research in Africa for Africa.

The research agenda addressed locally agreed health needs with the aim of improving the diagnosis and surveillance of infectious diseases, improving the deployment of existing drug treatments and vaccines (and enhancing local capacity to develop new ones), and improving the management of infectious diseases.

The outcomes of the TIBA partnership have been remarkable; it has delivered 55 research projects, and generated over 100 academic papers published in top-tier journals, 24 policy documents, of which 4 are Africa-wide, and 160 IP assets,” says Geoff Banda, Deputy Director of the Innogen Institute at The University of Edinburgh.

TIBA has also contributed to training and furthering the careers of African researchers. TIBA-associated researchers have contributed to postgraduate, postdoctoral and professional training of hundreds of researchers. Thanks to the partnership, 22 postdoctoral fellows have been able to carry out research overseas and over 30 PhD/MSc/MPH degrees were awarded at African institutions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, TIBA played a key role in building response capacity, including real-time genome sequencing that enabled the generation of 15% of the SARS-CoV-2 virus sequences from Africa, contributing to global variant detection and tracking.

As they seek to expand the partnership model, the authors reflect on lessons learnt and issue ten actionable recommendations for researchers and funders to achieve sustained gains, buy-in, trust and impact from global health research partnerships (Figure).

TIBA has excelled at producing real-world demand-driven laboratory, policy and practice research, which is being adopted and applied in various African countries and supranational organisations,” Geoff Banda concludes.


Read the full paper here: Mutapi F, et al. BMJ Global Health 2023;8:e011028.