Pharmacology for Africa Prestigious Lecture - Ethics and cutting-edge pre-clinical research: An African perspective

[Speaker] Christiaan B. Brink:1
1:Pharmacology, Centre of Excellence for Pharmaceutical Sciences (Pharmacen), Faculty of Health Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, 2531, South Africa

Within the African landscape of pre-clinical pharmacological research, the toxicity and therapeutic potential of herbal medicines are for the most part investigated using laboratory animals, employed as translational models of the human physiology or condition. In most cases the research involves reverse pharmacology of crude preparations already used in traditional treatment regimens, or the screening for new active ingredients. In many instances there are ‘me too’ outcomes and in too few instances are focussed drug development with novel clinical applications realised. Barriers not only include financial constraints, but also involve a lack of sustainable support systems and driving forces, as well as inadequate research paradigms and ethics.
Research ethics have proven itself globally to play a key role for the purpose of promoting the quality of science. This is no different in Africa, with its own unique context, value systems, research questions and needs. Ethics review and approval processes independently consider and oversee scientific quality and impact, sound methods and experimental design, justification as measured by risk-benefit (or harms-benefit) analyses, human protection, animal wellbeing and environmental integrity, responsibility and competence, monitoring, legal compliance, record keeping, and even standardisation of procedures and harmonisation of norms. On the one hand research ethics reflect on societal values and attitudes as contextualised in experimental science, outlining the norms for responsible conduct. On the other hand, as ethics link to the core of our being, hopes and aspirations, reflecting on purpose and responsibility, it also becomes a driving force for excellence.
In South Africa and Egypt, animal research ethics is supported by legislation, regulation, academia and comprehensive management and support systems. As from presentations at the SAALAS conference held in South Africa in November 2017, there is now a growing continental realisation at universities and other research institutions of the importance and role of research ethics, actively getting systems in place, including in Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria and Tunisia. In particular there is a drive toward greater harmonisation across the African continent.
The current presentation will reflect on the key and empowering roles of research ethics to promote cutting-edge pre-clinical research on the African continent.
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