Promoting equitable research and training partnerships in global health

The University of Zambia – University College London Medical School (UNZA-UCLMS) Research & Training Programme was founded in 1994 as an Africa-Europe medical research and capacity development organisation based at the University of Zambia School of Medicine and Zambia’s national referral centre, the University Teaching Hospital. Through a rich history of high impact outputs and award winning research, UNZA-UCLMS has grown into a world-leading medical research partnership, obtaining substantial competitive grant funding for training medical and laboratory personnel, building clinical trial capacity and laboratory infrastructure, and publishing research in high impact factor journals which have changed and helped develop World Health Organization (WHO) and global public health policy guidelines for TB, TB/HIV and infectious diseases with epidemic potential

Over 28 years the UNZA-UCLMS Programme has expanded across all continents. Our latest novel initiative is a ONE-HUMAN-ANIMAL-HEALTH CONSORTIUM  (PANDORA-ID-NET) initiated and developed by Professor Sir Ali Zumla.

UNZA-UCLMS has created important international collaborations between academia, health care providers, communities funders and industry and effectively closely aligning capacity development and training activities with high quality research programs. We have now networked across all continents, with 40 countries and over 70 institutions conducting multidisciplinary collaborative research on the epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of major infectious diseases affecting adults and children.

“Ukatamanga weka utamangisa, tikatamanga awili, tifikapatali” – When you run alone, you run fast. When you run together, you run further

– Zambian Proverb


From the 1950s onwards African countries became independent from colonial domination, and embarked on developing their own medical schools and training programmes. The fact that  several African institutions had not developed their medical and scientific research  and training programmes to international standards, had been a subject of intense debate  and discussion. In the 1980s, most research in Africa was conducted by individual western researchers, or was conducted through expatriate-dominated research centres. African governments were unable to invest adequately in sustaining local medical research programmes.  In the early 1990s, several African countries took up the challenge and embarked on developing their own African-led R&D programmes, to phase out colonial domination and the unethical practice of parachute and FEDEX postal research (Costello & Zumla 2000Zumla 2002)

Birth of the UNZA-UCLMS Research and Training Programme

1990: A substantive  US- National Institutes of Health (NIH)-RO1 grant  for R&D  and training  on HIV ? AIDS enabled  two Zambians, Professor Chifumbe  Chintu  and Professor Alimuddin  Zumla  to set up the University of Texas-University  of Zambia R&D  Project (UTZAM) with Professor Herbert Dupont  (UT, Houston, Texas, USA), at the University Teaching  Hospital in Lusaka for R&D  and capacity  development. 

1994-2013: Professors Chintu  and Zumla (1994-2004) and Professor Zumla and Dr Peter Mwaba (2004-2013) competitively obtained substantial project and programme grants for clinical trials on several areas of adult and paediatric infectious diseases with a focus on Tuberculosis, HIV//AIDS and respiratory infections: See “Trials and tribulations of an African-led research and capacity development programme: the case for EDCTP investments”

Over 20 clinical trials have been conducted and results of these trials have changed global clinical practice and the World Health Organisation’s international management guidelines for TB, TB-HIV co-infection, respiratory infections, and prevention of opportunistic infections. The UNZA-UCLMS epidemiological data has defined the extent and severity of the TB/HIV situation and highlighted the emergence and spread of Extensively Drug Resistant TB. The first UNZA-UCLMS autopsy studies focussed global attention on previously neglected issues of childhood TB and the need for new management guidelines for respiratory infections. Our basic science and longitudinal cohort studies developed and evaluated new urine, sputum and blood based TB diagnostics and biomarkers. Several evaluations of rapid diagnostic tests for TB in various settings revealed a large load of undiagnosed sub-clinical TB, resulting in global recommendations for more pro-active screening for TB. Over the years we have competitively obtained substantial grant funding to conduct a range of research, capacity development and training work. Our UNZA-UCLMS Program has expanded with sub-projects, programmes and sub-studies across all Africa regions linking Francophone, Anglophone and Lusophone speaking regions. Our core organizations are listed above.