TDRC is a medical research and training institution set up in 1975 by WHO/TDR under resolution number WHO 27.52 of the World Health Assembly, as one of three World Regional Centres for research in tropical diseases such as malaria, schistosomiasis, trypanosomiasis, filariasis etc. The other two were set up in Thailand and Brazil.
The setting up of tropical diseases research centres in developing countries became imperative for various especial reasons. Firstly, despite the continued affliction of the indigenous people by the so called tropical diseases, research on these diseases was being done in institutions in Europe mainly to serve the interests of foreign missionaries, miners, sailors, soldiers and others. Secondly, the research was done to prevent such diseases from spreading to Europe and other protected zones. Much of the research on medicines for malaria, for example, was done to serve military personnel sent to conflict zones in tropical countries. For example, chloroquine which became a famous malaria medicine at one time was discovered by the Germans as they prepared to fight battles of the world wars in Africa and other tropical countries in Asia. Following the world wars, research on medicines for tropical diseases was stepped up to serve the foreign military personnel in conflict areas such as Vietnam.
Although some benefits from the research done in developed countries would trickle down to indigenous people in tropical countries, it was considered inadequate to answer specific research questions to formulate interventions to mitigate the suffering of indigenous people. Tropical diseases such as malaria continued to exact a high morbidity and death toll among indigenous people; therefore, there was a compelling need for research to be done closer to the affected population and inform development of appropriate interventions for those populations.
The need to establish research centres in the developing countries was promulgated by the WHO following a World Health Assembly resolution 27.52.of 1975. This resolution was passed to establish three regional centres for research and training on tropical diseases in three different geographical regions of the developing world. Countries with flourishing and stable governments were requested to host the centres. It was in that regard that countries namely Brazil, Thailand and Zambia were selected. Zambia then being a young developing nation had acknowledged the importance of research in national development, and the need to train Zambians in research, thus embraced the opportunity of hosting one of the research centres. Therefore, the government volunteered to offer space at Ndola Central Hospital to accommodate a WHO research Centre to benefit the region as well as the country. The WHO, UNDP, UNICEF and The World Bank became the main sponsors of the research programmes in TDRC and continued to support the centre through what was known as the WHO, UNDP, UNICEF and The World Bank Special Programme for Research and Training (simply known as TDR), until it was handed over to the Zambian government and became a statutory board under the MOH in 1981. Thus, the TDRC was named after the WHO special programme (TDR) that supported TDRC at its inception.
The Tropical Diseases Research Centre (TDRC) was established as a national research centre in 1981.The operations of the TDRC Board are guided by the provisions of the TDRC Act No. 31 of 1982. The members of the TDRC board are appointed by the Minister of Health. The TDRC Board provides strategic leadership to the TDRC management. The Chairman of the board is the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health. The Director, appointed by the Board, is the Executive Officer of the TDRC and responsible for the administration of TDRC. The Director is assisted by the Deputy Director and Board Secretary who are also appointed by the TDRC Board. There are three scientific departments: Biomedical Sciences, Public Health and Epidemiology, and Clinical Sciences.
The administrative support department is comprised of Accounts, Transport, Purchasing and Supply, Stores, Personnel and Security Units and is headed by Board Secretary. The Biomedical Sciences Department undertake basic science research and provide laboratory support to research activities in the Clinical Sciences Department and Public Health and Epidemiology Department.
Since its establishment in 1981, TDRC has gone through transformation that have seen an expanded research mandate. In recent years, the Centre has had to face the challenges of policy change as a result of health sector reform in the country.The Centre has embraced these changes positively and seeks to adapt itself to be consistent and relevant to the health needs of the day, not only in Zambia but also in Africa as a whole. The Centre seeks to position its activities so as to contribute effectively to the generation of evidence for disease prevention and control.
The vision of TDRC is to be a Centre of excellence in the promotion of health in Zambia and the African Region through research.
Our mission statement is to contribute to socio-economic development through targeted research and product development leading to effective prevention and control of disease.
Our Goal is to conduct research and training in diseases of public health importance and related conditions in the Region in order to contribute to their prevention and control.
Objectives of the Centre
- Conduct research in diseases of public health importance in the Region.
- Develop and evaluate tools, technologies and strategies for the prevention and control of diseases and related conditions.
- Collect and disseminate scientific information including the publication of scientific reports, journals and other such documents and literature relating to the work of the Centre.
- Serve as a Regional Research and Training Center in Africa.
- Strengthen research and product development in malaria through design and implementation of epidemiological studies aimed at understanding better the burden of malaria including its socio-economic impact
- To evaluate new tools including candidate vaccines for prevention and control of malaria.
- To develop new ways of utilizing current and new drugs, traditional medicines and technologies for malaria prevention and control.
- To strengthen the technical capacity of the Center to conduct research and product development activities that will contribute to national, regional and global prevention and control of HIV infection.
- Development and evaluation of new methods of utilizing current and new drugs, traditional remedies, vaccines, technologies and tools for HIV/AIDS and STI prevention and control.
- Build capacity for detection of drug resistant tuberculosis, validation of molecular techniques for detection and surveillance of drug resistant strains, and devise ways of utilizing current and new drugs and strategies for prevention and control of TB.
- Develop capacity for conducting priority research in micronutrients aimed at creating a national database, improving current public health interventions, and assessment of impact of interventions.
- Provide epidemiological data necessary for defining the place of schistosomiasis on the national health agenda, and to formulate a national strategy for control.
- To strengthen and sustain proven ways of trypanosomiasis transmission reduction, early detection and treatment of cases in order to expand tsetse fly free areas and hence enable socio-economic development.
- To establish a sentinel surveillance system, develop and evaluate existing and new tools, technologies and strategies for the prevention and control of diarrheal disease.
With the expanded research mandate, the Centre embracing research on all health problems of national importance. Thus, the institution conducts research in diseases of public health importance, which include malaria, HIV/AIDS, TB, diarrhoea diseases, schistosomiasis, Human African Trypanosomiasis, micronutrient deficiency diseases and sexually transmitted diseases.
Most of the funding for research is received from external funding agencies and this has made the Centre vulnerable to externally driven research. Some notable funders to the institution are WHO, UNAIDS, Sight and Life, SIDA, ITM, CIHD, CIDA, USAID, CDC and Population Council. The Government does give monthly grants to TDRC mainly for operational costs. However, this funding has not been adequate to meet the capacity needed for the institution to carry out the research mandate. Therefore, the Centre will seek to source funding from relevant international research and development funding agencies through grant applications for medium to long term programmes.