Malaria elimination remains a challenge due to the complexities of the disease. South Africa aimed to eliminate malaria by 2018 but experienced a malaria outbreak during the 2017/2018 malaria season, where more than 22 000 cases were reported. South Africa then had to reassess its malaria elimination strategies, which at that point focused mainly on vector control and early diagnosis and treatment. South Africa rolled out its 2023 National Malaria Elimination Strategic Plan on 30 July 2019, clearly emphasising coordination of efforts using innovative new tools and strategies to ensure that the country achieves a malaria-free status.

South Africa is pioneering activities within the value chain of drug discovery, drug development and clinical testing of medicines. The CoP draws from the expertise of five in the country. Therefore, six DST/NRF South African Research Chairs (SARChI) from four top research-intensive universities have strategically come together combining their expertise to create a Community of Practice specifically focussed towards malaria elimination.

The envisaged aim of Communities of Practice is to provide research-driven, innovative solutions that will inform and guide policy development, as well as translate research outputs into tangible outcomes with social and/or economic impact. The CoP in ‘Evaluating Malaria Control Interventions’ is directly aimed at providing solution-oriented innovative health solutions, for translation in addressing the malaria societal and economic challenge to South Africa, and Africa as a whole. The CoP focusses on intervention strategies for malaria elimination including the discovery of novel drug leads (Prof Kelly Chibale, University of Cape Town, Chair in Drug Discovery) used with optimised delivery systems (Prof Bert Klumperman, Stellenbosch University, Chair in Advanced Macromolecular Architectures) against both the malaria parasite (Prof Lyn-Marie Birkholtz, UP, Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control) and mosquito vectors (Prof Lizette Koekemoer, University of the Witwatersrand, Chair in Medical Entomology and Vector Control), using this data to model the efficacy of these drugs for transmission blocking (Prof Jacky Snoep, Chair in Mechanistic Modelling of Health and Epidemiology) and modelled within a malaria elimination setting (Prof Jacek Banasiak, UP, Chair in Mathematical Models and Methods in Biosciences and Bioengineering).

The CoP in Evaluating Malaria Control Interventions is the leading national network in anti-malarial drug discovery providing research-driven, innovative health solutions and interventions for eliminating malaria. Ultimately, the CoP will inform and guide policy development, and translate research outputs into tangible outcomes that will address South African, and African, socioeconomic challenges associated with malaria. Furthermore, the interdisciplinary and integrated nature of the research undertaken by the CoP will also train a new generation of South African scientists in implementing disease-elimination strategies.

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