Eliminating worm infectionsin sub-saharan africa and enabling the who's road map 2021-2030

eWHORM Partners Gather in Vienna, Austria for Their First Progress Meeting

Vienna, Austria, 05.06.2024

In early June, Vienna became the center of the fight against NTDs and helminthiases as the eWHORM consortium met at the Medical University of Vienna for their general assembly.

The partners from Gabon, Germany, Cameroon, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria and DRC were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and discuss the progress of the project.

Indeed, a little bit over a year after the project started, significant accomplishments have already been achieved; Project coordinator Prof. Dr. Marc Hübner, from the University Hospital Bonn remarked:

The meeting highlighted the major achievements of the first year of eWHORM, one of which was the completion of the Master Protocol and its submission to the EMA.

Once validated, the Master Protocol will allow the partners to engage in the start of the clinical trials. Prof. Hübner added:

“The EMA [European Medicines Agency] will provide their feedback in the next few months and eWHORM will have to adapt the protocol in a short period of time so that we can start with the clinical trial on time. We have to make sure that the country and disease specific aspects are all addressed within the protocol so that everyone can work with it, from an ethical, administrative and scientific point of view. I am really looking forward to that.”

Sound cooperation between the partners responsible for the clinical trials and the regulatory authorities will be crucial to obtain the approval before initiating the clinical trials. Sabine Specht, co-coordinator of eWHORM and Head of filarial diseases at DNDi highlighted this necessity:

We are dealing with multiple partners, multiple diseases, multiple countries in this project. This is the first clinical trial that tries to combine all these aspects into one protocol for helminth diseases and NTDs. It is very important to harmonise the process and the structure of the protocol, but also consult regulatory authorities at an early stage to support us in this endeavour.

The annual meeting also offered a glimpse into the work conducted by the Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam on the virtual training tool for microscopic detection of blood and intestinal parasites. This tool will help train the technicians at the clinical trial sites and contribute to capacity building.

Prof. Dr. Michael Ramharter from the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, Germany, is responsible for this core part of eWHORM. He emphasized:

“Capacity building affects not only research activities but also routine medical management and routine care in the institutions where the projects are active. It is a sustainable way to have a positive impact on the management of patients. Capacity building needs to be done not only from North to South but in all directions to benefit from the expertise of all partners involved.”

On this matter, Prof. Ghyslain Mombo-Ngoma, clinical trial coordinator at CERMEL for loiasis patients, acknowledged:

It is clear that capacity in Africa in terms of infrastructure and human capacity is lacking. A project of this kind strengthens capacity in all areas, and the North-South and South-South networks created at the same time contribute to long-term impact through the dissemination of the project's results.

Lastly, the meeting was an opportunity to present the work of mentors and mentees. The mentorship activities are a major part of capacity building, and BNITM highlighted these actions:

Prof. Dr. Michael Ramharter, BNITMMentoring is a way of empowering young colleagues to embark on a career in research, and this includes not only scientific aspects, which are important, but also other aspects of daily life; how to combine private and professional life, mobility with a sedentary lifestyle. How to acquire the necessary skills to become a successful researcher. Combined with other aspects such as gender equality and representation of all groups, these are the issues that need to be addressed in the mentoring programme.

eWHORM facilitates not only North-South and South-South collaboration but also embraces a global perspective of interconnections, all aimed at fighting NTDs through the establishment of an adaptive clinical trial platform.

Here's to next year!

Picture for gathering in Vienna