GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has launched the first call for proposals for its Africa NCD Open Lab to support scientific research into non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa.

In sub-Saharan Africa and across developing countries, non-communicable diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, are becoming more prevalent.

The Africa NCD Open Lab was set up earlier this year with an £25m investment over five years, in order to deal with NCDs through research.

Africa NCD Open Lab interim head Dr Mike Strange said: "We believe the highly collaborative research network we’re creating through the Africa NCD Open Lab has the potential to dramatically improve our understanding of NCDs in Africa and could ultimately, accelerate the development of new, better medicines to treat these.

"The launch of our first call for proposals is an important milestone for this initiative, and we encourage researchers working in the field of NCDs who are based in the eight eligible countries to consider applying for the funding and expert support available to them through this."

The £4m first round of funding will be made available to support the proposals from health researchers in Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana, the Gambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi.

The laboratory, based at GSK’s Stevenage R&D facility in the UK, aims to address NCDs through the creation of a new research network.

"The Africa NCD Open Lab was set up earlier this year with an £25m investment over five years, in order to deal with NCDs through research."

Scientists from the company will collaborate with researchers across Africa on high quality epidemiological, genetic and interventional research.

After the first call for proposals from African researchers, an independent external advisory group, including clinical and scientific experts in the field of NCDs, will review applications to the NCD Open Lab.

Recommendations for funding will be based on scientific merit, and the group will include a majority African membership to ensure that only locally-relevant research is funded.

GSK said that a second call for proposals in South Africa is planned for early in 2015, which will be launched in collaboration with the Medical Research Councils of South Africa and the UK, with a combined £5m funding.

Image: GlaxoSmithKline headquaters in London, UK. Photo: courtesy of Maxwell Hamilton.