Two of the major drivers of research are (a) curiosity and (b) market needs. In this context, two paradigms can be applied to health-related research, namely bench-to-bedside vs. bedside-to-bench. The former corresponds to the notion of technology push, in which a technology once developed would need to find an appropriate clinical application. In the latter, which corresponds to the notion of market pull, research is conducted on the basis of health needs of the local population, with the patient as the market. With regard to the Institute, a migration towards market-driven research (bedside-to-bench) is encouraged, i.e. the focus will be on the patient as the major driver of research.
According to the 2005 Department of Health report on the Distribution of reported causes of death, mortality in South Africa can be separated into 2 major groups:
- Infectious diseases (tuberculosis, respiratory tract infection, intestinal infectious diseases, with HIV/AIDS as a major but undefined contributor)
- Non-communicable diseases of lifestyle (heart and cerebrovascular diseases, hypertension, and metabolic diseases including diabetes)
According to the WHO Global Burden of Diseases Report of 2004 projected deaths by cause will alter significantly over the next 10-15 years.
An important consideration in low and middle income countries (South Africa is classified as a middle income country) is that as the relative contribution of infectious diseases drops off as we approach 2015 and 2030, the contribution of cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases will increase.
If one considers the 10 major contributors to the global burden of disease, according to the WHO Global Burden of Diseases Report of 2004, neuropsychiatric disorders such as unipolar depression will move into the first position by the year 2030.
On the basis of the data presented above, which is relevant to the “market” needs of South Africa, the Institute is involved in research in infections diseases, diseases of lifestyle and the neurosciences.