Spirit of Nelson Mandela is still alive - clinical trial site in Eastern Cape, South Africa opens its doors

SEATTLE — June 28, 2018

The Nelson Mandela Academic Clinical Research Unit (NeMACRU) in Mthatha, South Africa became part of a network of clinical trial sites that are conducting the largest Phase 2b/3 HIV vaccine efficacy clinical trial in the country. The trial, called HVTN 702, aims to determine if an investigational HIV vaccine regimen is safe, tolerable and effective at preventing HIV infection among South African adults.  NeMACRU, activated on May 2, is located in the Eastern Cape Province of the country and is set to enroll approximately 110 of 5,400 HIV-negative men and women ages 18 – 35 years.

Finding an effective HIV vaccine and growing the next generation of medical investigators are the two main objectives of the common vision shared by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN).  The activation of the NeMACRU clinical trial site works to meet these objectives and mirrors the commitment of the Mthatha communities, the clinical research team, the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital and the Walter Sisulu University, to use research and development as an impactful approach to change the socio-economic challenges of local and global communities that are responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“The SAMRC is committed to developing clinical research capacity in rural and underserved areas in the country. Our support of the development of this clinical trial site to conduct HIV vaccine research bears testimony to our commitment to science that is appropriate to our country,” says Professor Glenda Gray, President & CEO of the SAMRC.

For this new site, the key to unlocking the progress and successful management of the clinical trial is embodied in the participation and support for the trial from the Mthatha community.  Since the first enrollment in November 2016, the 13 other enrolling clinical trial sites in South Africa have enrolled more than 60% of the total participants for the trial.  NeMACRU now joins those clinical trial sites. The HVTN 702 clinical trial is expected to conclude in late 2020.

 “Community voices are important in the research agenda. The Mthatha Community Advisory Board (CAB) ensures that communities are not left behind and that they are engaged throughout the research process,” says Treasure S. Ndesi, CAB Chairperson.  “Nelson Mandela was committed to the HIV response agenda and it is in that spirit that we, as community leaders, continue carrying the baton,” says Ndesi.

Ultimately, the HVTN seeks to serve our communities through science.  This expansion of in-country relationships magnifies that goal, incorporating new colleagues and communities, to own the impact that we seek in this trial,” says Larry Corey, M.D., Principal Investigator of the HVTN, virologist and faculty member at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.   

According to UNAIDS, since 2010 new HIV infections in South Africa have decreased by 49% and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 29%.  While this trajectory of progress is significant, the country still faces the reality of an estimated 1,000 new HIV infections daily. Globally, South Africa accounts for 19% of people living with HIV, recording 15% of new global infections and 11% of global AIDS-related deaths.

A 2017 report issued by the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) confirmed the Eastern Cape to have the third largest burden of HIV in the country with an estimated prevalence of 12.1%, and the region contributes to more than one in ten of the country’s overall new infections.


About the Nelson Mandela Academic Clinical Research Unit (NeMACRU)
The Nelson Mandela Academic Clinical Research Unit (NeMACRU) is a research entity of the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital established by the hospital in association with the Walter Sisulu University, Faculty of Health Sciences.  NeMACRU is located in one of the poorest districts (OR Tambo District Municipality) of the Eastern Cape Province. The existence of this site will not only promote excellent research output in the area but will support local health facilities with health education on vaccines and HIV Prevention.

About the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)
The South African Medical Research Council was established in 1969 with a mandate to improve the health of the country’s population, through research, development and technology transfer, so that people can enjoy a better quality of life.  The scope of the organization’s research projects includes tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular and non-communicable diseases, gender and health, and alcohol and other drug abuse.  With a strategic objective to help strengthen the health systems of the country – in line with that of the Department of Health, the SAMRC constantly identifies the main causes of death in South Africa.

About Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first National Cancer Institute-funded cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.

Media Relations
Aziel Gangerdine
HVTN: Director of Communications
C 206.384.0945 / O 206.667.7875