Supporting drug discovery projects in sub-Saharan Africa with the Grand Challenges African Drug Discovery Accelerator programme

In collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation we are investing £6 million in the Grand Challenges African Drug Discovery Accelerator (GC ADDA) programme, supporting 5 African drug discovery projects over 3 to 5 years.


LifeArc and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are jointly investing £6 million ($7.2m) to help enhance drug discovery capabilities in sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on new treatments for malaria and tuberculosis. The programme also aims to address key challenges in global research equity, foster innovation and provide support to strengthen translational research capabilities in Africa.

About the Grand Challenges Africa Drug Discovery programme

Launched in 2018, the Grand Challenges Africa Drug Discovery programme was developed to identify and support exciting new drug discovery projects in Africa, strengthen the continent’s drug discovery capabilities and create a project-driven virtual African drug discovery network. Funding from Grand Challenges Africa Drug Discovery has already supported two cohorts of 8 projects focusing on tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.

In this second phase, LifeArc and the Foundation are each investing £3 million to support the next wave of pan-African consortium projects, building on the capabilities strengthened in phase one.

The 5 drug discovery projects in the programmme

1. Supporting the Grand Challenges African Drug Discovery Accelerator (GC ADDA) – led by the H3D Foundation

Established to position Africa as a global player in innovative pharmaceutical R&D by strengthening infrastructure and the skills of scientists in Africa, the H3D Foundation and H3D Centre, University of Cape Town, have been the key strategic and technical partner for the Grand Challenges Africa Drug Discovery projects since inception. The GC ADDA network aims to boost investment and research infrastructure, fostering collaboration, training, and public engagement.

2. Antituberculosis drug development through targeted protein degradation

Led by Professor Erick Strauss at Stellenbosch University, this project explores using proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs) to degrade proteins and treat TB, offering a novel approach beyond inhibiting protein activity that could overcome challenges posed by current TB treatment approaches.

3. Novel antimalarial lead candidates

Dr. Richard Amewu from the University of Ghana and Prof. Lyn-Marié Birkholtz from the University of Pretoria are working to develop multistage-targeting drugs that also block malaria transmission, aiming for elimination and eradication.

4. Pan Africa DMPK Center of Excellence

Professor Collen Masimirembwa’s team at the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology in Zimbabwe aims to establish a center focusing on Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics (DMPK) to enhance drug development research across Africa.

5. African-derived natural product box (AdNPB)

Dr. Fidele Ntie-Kang at the University of Buea, Cameroon, is compiling a collection of 400 natural products from Africa for screening against diseases like TB, neglected tropical diseases, viral infections, and malaria, leveraging traditional medicinal practices and natural products.

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