In the months of June and July the focus of DATOS’ activities broadened to strengthening research laboratories by assisting the Trails of Excellence in Southern Africa network, shortly TESA network.

The TESA network was launched in 2009 during the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) phase 1. The objective of this network is to strengthen clinical research capacities in Southern Africa as well as increase North-South and South-South networks. Currently, TESA incorporates 13 institutions in eight Southern African and four European countries. The activities of the TESA network currently focus mostly on capacity building and strengthening less established institutions for the identification, treatment and prevention of poverty-related infectious diseases in the Southern Region of Africa.

DATOS was asked to assist with the establishment of reference laboratories within this network for HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. In June we visited:

– The laboratory of the Botswana Harvard Partnership (BHP) which is envisaged to become TESA HIV reference laboratory

– The laboratory of the Centro de Investigação em Saúde de Manhiça (CISM) which is envisaged to become the TESA malaria reference laboratory.

We conducted an assessment at both laboratories to investigate their structure, capacity, quality management system, and other strengths and weaknesses.

During a joint workshop directly following the laboratory visits, the teams of both institutes and the experts of DATOS formulated Terms of Reference (ToR) for the TESA reference laboratories and, based on that, developed an action plan for both laboratories to work towards implementing the ToR.

The workshop team

To further establish the TESA TB Reference Laboratory, Tjeerd Datema visited TB laboratories at both the Stellenbosch University and University of Cape Town in South Africa to determine which would be most suited as TESA TB reference laboratory and how both laboratories can collaborate.

The next steps will focus on making sure that all TESA reference laboratories implement the ToR formulated in June to further build capacity of the TESA network.