Centre for Cardio-metabolic Research in Africa (CARMA)
The purpose of establishing CARMA will be to function as a node of excellence to ensure integrated and enhanced research efforts of biomedical scientists and clinicians at SU with the target to enhance knowledge creation, deliver postgraduate students and to improve health care and well-being of patients.
Poor lifestyle choices within the African continent have resulted in a remarkable increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and CVD. Studies also demonstrate that the number of persons suffering from such debilitating conditions will dramatically escalate within the next few decade(s) to further increase the overall burden of disease. Moreover, individuals suffering from HIV-AIDS also display increasing onset of diabetes and CVD. This will further raise morbidities and mortalities in especially developing countries, resulting in a ''double burden'' of disease. This will lead to significantly higher health-care costs, disruption of family units and dwindling economic productivity. This scenario is a major threat to the sustainable development of South Africa, the Southern African Development Community and the rest of the African continent.
In light of this, the establishment of CARMA is an important step towards dealing with this burgeoning health problem by focusing on the following:
- Attracting significant international research and endowment funding to increase high impact research outputs and enhance postgraduate training opportunities;
- Promoting basic research with the aim to translate findings into the clinical context for improved diagnostic tools and/or novel therapeutic interventions;
- Delivering skilled postgraduates with leadership potential (emphasis on African continent) to make a substantial impact within Africa and globally;
- Acting as a vehicle to especially improve networking of experts within SU and other African tertiary and research-based institutions and also globally;
- Nurturing the future generations of world-class faculty that encompass transformation imperatives;
- Establishing SU as a global leader in the field;
- Societal impact: community outreach and public awareness campaigns on CVD; lobbying / influencing health policy- and decision-makers and stake-holders.
CARMA aims to provide the necessary framework for biomedical scientists to tackle key research questions by employing an integrative approach consisting of three research platforms, i.e. cell, animal and clinical based studies. Although considerable progress has been made in the “omics" and clinical research fields, basic (fundamental) research remains an essential component of the continuum that should not be neglected. In this respect, CARMA is an initiative to sustain and grow basic research but also with the intent to translate such findings into the clinic and/or for the development of potential commercialization opportunities. CARMA will also encourage both principal investigator-driven as well as strategically-themed research projects. This approach should allow for personal growth (of especially younger faculty members) while also supporting the collective expertise to develop bigger research questions that are well supported by international funding agencies. The establishment of CARMA will provide the necessary visibility and strength to apply for major international research grants and also endowments from suitable donors.
For the African continent, factors like unavailability of equipment, under-resourced laboratories and lack of a strong research culture are a major hindrance for advanced cardio-metabolic research. One of the major objectives of CARMA is therefore to also produce skilled postgraduates with leadership qualities by research-based postgraduate training, i.e. MSc and Ph.D. Here the focus will be to especially provide opportunities for students from previously disadvantaged South African institutions and the rest of the African continent. For the latter, the focus will be on the institutions where there are existing bilateral agreements with SU. Such initiatives should also increase the possibilities for networking across the continent and to build research ties to also be in a position to apply for funding opportunities as this may arise. Here there will be close liaison with existing networks and partnerships such as the Physiology Society of Southern Africa (PSSA), the African Association of Physiological Sciences (AAPS), the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS), the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA) and the South African Society for Cardiovascular Research (SASCAR) to enhance the postgraduate programme offerings (MSc and PhD) and to attract visiting faculty members and students. CARMA therefore is strongly committed to producing the next generation of world-class faculty to make contributions anywhere in the world, but especially within Africa. A successful CARMA should also further enhance SU's global profile by the impact of research findings generated and also the next generation of leaders in the field produced. collective expertise to develop bigger research questions that are well supported by international funding agencies. The establishment of CARMA will provide the necessary visibility and strength to apply for major international research grants and also endowments from suitable donors. This is crucial in the current research landscape within the South African context with a sluggish economy and dwindling funds being allocated to agencies such as the NRF and the MRC.