Mobile Testing IAVI Africa 500pxA woman waits to take an HIV test as part of a mobile HIV testing campaign in rural Uganda. Photo credit: Frederic Courbet for IAVI

IAVI in Africa (IAVI-Africa) focuses on research and development (R&D), research preparedness, and policy and advocacy work. We are strengthening the capacity for cutting-edge basic, clinical, epidemiological, and translational research across multiple disease areas in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through a robust research and capacity development program. In collaboration with 15 clinical research center (CRC) partners across Eastern, Western, and Southern Africa, IAVI-Africa is contributing to the development of next-generation vaccines for HIV and tuberculosis (TB); biomedical interventions for the prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases and other neglected tropical diseases; and antibody discovery and development for HIV prevention and multi-drug resistant bacteria.

By facilitating meaningful engagement with communities, advocates, and policymakers, IAVI-Africa supports the development of national and regional policies that enhance the research and regulatory environment and accelerate translation of research to policy and practice. With offices and core teams in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa, IAVI’s work in Africa is a component of IAVI’s global discovery, product development, and clinical development work that includes research centers and offices in Europe, India, and the U.S.

Clinical Development

IAVI-Africa’s 20 years of experience in clinical and epidemiological research in HIV and TB vaccine research has contributed significantly to defining disease patterns in diverse populations and regions, disease progression, pathogen characteristics, and immune responses to inform the design of appropriate public health solutions. IAVI in Africa has built an extensive network with research centers, communities, and civil society organizations that helped uncover hidden HIV epidemics and advanced HIV prevention research. Besides having a biorepository for over 100,000 samples that are an invaluable resource in understanding infection risk and immunity against TB, we have conducted two groundbreaking TB vaccine studies in Africa that have demonstrated efficacy in preventing TB infection and TB disease. We have also established IAVI DataSpace, an open-access, expandable data warehouse to enhance data-driven research. This database contains the largest collection of samples from an African early HIV infection cohort, the Protocol C, and a well-characterized early HIV infection cohort of over 600 volunteers. Moreover, our team of scientists have identified, isolated, and characterized over 25 broadly neutralizing antibodies, many of which have been shared with researchers across the HIV vaccine field. This integrated virology and immunology research program has led to novel strategies for development of next-generation vaccines for HIV.

Capacity strengthening

Significant intellectual resources and infrastructure for HIV prevention research already exist across Africa. Our research capacity development program aims at building a critical mass of African researchers and research institutions that are contributing to global efforts toward ending the HIV epidemic and solving other pressing global health needs. Sustainable human resource capacity is being built through provision of funding for research for early career scientists, manuscript writing and mentorship development training, an adolescent research fellowship, and an advanced degree program that supports staff from CRCs. Through an innovative Leadership Development Program we are positioning African scientists to take the lead in fashioning, driving, and supporting the scientific research enterprise. IAVI also trains CRCs in financial management of projects funded by the U.S. government and other bilateral organizations, focusing on donor regulations and policies. IAVI in Africa has a well-established laboratory support program to ensure its clinical trials and observational studies follow international standards of conduct. IAVI has successfully transferred to various laboratories in Eastern and Southern Africa technical expertise in the areas of: viral genome sequencing, viral replicative capacity assays, viral inhibition assays, epitope mapping, flow cytometry, and serology.

Our capacity strengthening program emphasizes the shifting of leadership to African investigators, allowing the research “to be driven by Africans for Africa.”

Stakeholder engagement and partnerships

Community engagement: Our well-developed community outreach approach encompasses a wide range of community preparedness activities and a network that conducts community education and volunteer recruitment for clinical trials. By prioritizing community engagement, we are committed to developing HIV biomedical prevention tools that are acceptable, affordable, and accessible to the communities who will benefit most. Our end-user research is key to this process, providing additional insights on product development, including on formulation, device, delivery, and packaging decisions. Importantly, our community engagement approach seeks to empower communities to make informed choices and to demand the products that will meet their needs.

Policy and advocacy: Our advocacy, policy, and research preparedness efforts aim to promote a participatory approach to HIV studies. We conduct regional and national policy and advocacy to create an enabling environment for the conduct of research and to strengthen clinical research capacity to ensure the best interests of research participants and their communities are met. We work with donors, policymakers, and political leaders to translate science into guidelines for HIV prevention research and treatment across the continent. Every day, we strive to incorporate the voices of the countries most affected by HIV into this work in order to ensure a strong framework for, and access to, future prevention technologies.

Partnerships: Our research consortia bring together leading scientists and research organizations from Africa, Europe, India, and the U.S. to accelerate Africa-centered research. We have established close collaborations with national and international research regulators, regional policymaker bodies, national governments, local research centers, and communities to fast-track translation of research into policy and practice. Our long-term partnership with globally recognized African investigators and institutions has resulted in an efficient network of high-quality clinical trial sites.

End-to-end principle

Our end-to-end approach is built upon the premise that product development is driven by end-user needs, preferences, and behaviors, and will ensure optimization of novel HIV biomedical prevention interventions for use in sub-Saharan Africa and broad access. Our work in Africa employs socio-behavioral research (SBR) to help us understand the acceptability profiles of potential vaccine recipients. The use of evidence-based SBR approaches is aimed at helping us design a vaccine that will be readily taken up by those who need it most. Resulting SBR data will also provide valuable evidence to inform international and regional polices around HIV/AIDS care and prevention.

Our approach

  • A multidisciplinary approach to vaccine and antibody discovery encompassing virology, immunology, omics and bioinformatic disciplines.
  • Leveraging local knowledge, insights and resources to develop novel treatment and prevention methods that are effective among the broader African population.
  • Unique and extensive data repository to support data-driven science and discovery.
    • Consistent immunology standard operating procedures across all partnering labs in Africa.
    • Strong Africa-based, in-house lab; community engagement; advocacy, policy, and clinical development teams.
    • Experience and capacity to manage contract research organizations for the outsourcing of operational activities for the conduct of large TB vaccine clinical trials.
    • Expanding expertise to design trials and test monoclonal antibody products for multiple disease areas.
    • Extensive policy and advocacy experience in regulatory policies, domestic resource mobilization, and policies that impact participation of key populations in clinical trials.
    • Provide training and support in good participatory practices, research preparedness, and community engagement with populations that are most in need of public health solutions.