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WACUNA: Talk by Dr Royce on 'Making Clinical Medical Research work in Africa'

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After the AGM election of the Executive Committee, Dr Catherine Royce talked to us about her work. She is a medical doctor, originally trained as a surgeon at the NHS and has spent many years working internationally in clinical research both in the pharmaceutical and non-governmental sectors. She was senior project manager for DNDI (Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative) working on projects in East Africa with other agencies including Médecins Sans Frontières. Most recently, she has been working as a general surgeon in southern Ethiopia.  

The first part of the talk focused on the history of modern medical research, starting from the Nazi doctor trials in Nuremburg following the Second World War.
The Nuremburg Code, which was written immediately after the trials, laid out the conditions for ethical medical research involving humans, the fundamental principle of which is that participation is voluntary and that the benefits of research should outweigh the risk of participation. These principles remain the bedrock of medical research ethics today.

The thalidomide disaster of the early 1960s made clear the dangers of licensing new medicines for use in patients without prior testing in humans under clinical trial conditions. These events led to the Declaration of Helsinki which is based on the Nuremburg Code and which remains the international instrument governing all human medical research wherever it is carried out.

In the second part of the talk, Dr Royce discussed the conditions needed to carry out successful clinical research. These range from general conditions such as peace and security, a functioning government and health service, to the more specific requirements of equipped hospitals, laboratories and appropriately trained personnel, as well as general infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity.

The third part of the talk related to Dr Royce’s own experience of setting up clinical research facilities in east Africa, what can be learned from this and how this knowledge can be carried over into the current Ebola crisis in west Africa, and finally what can be expected in terms of clinical research output from that crisis situation.

Dr Royce was thanked for this fascinating and important discussion, and for answering many questions from the audience.

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