A consortium of African universities and research institutions led by the Walter Sisulu University in South Africa, announced on 23 June 2021 the founding of the Sisulu Foundation for African and Pandemic Disease Response ("The Sisulu Foundation").

The Sisulu Foundation will establish a collaborative Pan-African platform for training, research and development in pandemics. It aims to accelerate responses from within the African research community with regards to diseases and pandemics.

Members of the Sisulu Foundation include the Walter Sisulu University, South Africa ("WSU"); the North-West University, South Africa ("NWU"); the KAVI Institute for Clinical Research at the University in Nairobi, Kenya, L'Institut de Recherche en Santé, de Surveillance Épidémiologique et de Formations (“IRESSEF”) from Senegal, the University of Botswana, the South African Vaccination and Immunization Centre (“SAVIC”) at Sefako Makgatho University, South Africa; The Mother and Child University Hospital - Jeanne EBORI, Gabon, the University of Bonn, Germany, the National Institute of Biochemistry in Slovenia, and several scientists in their personal capacities.  

Intellectual property law firm KISCH IP was responsible for the incorporation of the Sisulu Foundation and is attending to setting up the contractual framework wherein the Sisulu Foundation will collaborate with certain of its members on a new COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

“We are honoured to be affiliated with the Sisulu Foundation whose efforts will currently be focused on the COVID-19 situation in Africa. The continent desperately needs to find its own solutions to the pandemic, particularly in terms of vaccines and medicines. Through collaboration, the Sisulu Foundation seeks to address these urgent needs. Whilst the vaccine is still in the early phases of testing, should a finalised vaccine be developed, a patent application would play a vital role in protecting the interests of the inventors by providing a registrable right that can be defended.” says Ms. Ursula Baravalle, Head of Patent department of KISCH IP.

The Sisulu Foundation allows for African scientists to provide solutions for the health challenges of Africa together. “It is poignant when the World Health Organisation (“WHO”) and donor countries ask: But where are the African scientists and their solutions in times of pandemic? This COVID -19 pandemic exposed huge gaps, but these are also huge opportunities," explains Prof. Rushiella Songca, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the WSU.

The Chairman of the Executive Board of the WHO, Dr Patrick Amoth said, "It is long overdue that African scientists participate in tackling the health challenges facing Africa. We are particularly impressed that the Sisulu Foundation managed to onboard some African heavyweights in vaccines and virology. Let this be a call to action for African scientists, wherever they may find themselves and to our scientist friends from across the world. We are in this together!"

Prof Dan Kgwadi, principal and vice-chancellor of the NWU, reinforced the commitment from his institution to the Sisulu Foundation, “Collaborations and partnerships between our universities and particularly among scientists will lead us towards sustainable solutions to many of the health challenges faced by our communities. We will continue to invest in technical infrastructure and other support measures to ensure the success of the Foundation's work."

The Sisulu Foundation plans to conduct a public launch ceremony later this year in order to first allow the third wave of Covid to pass in the various regions. In the interim, its Board and Scientific Advisory Board will be evaluating several projects and initiatives by member institutions.