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Investigating Networks of Zoonosis Innovation

Final Report Summary - INZI (Investigating Networks of Zoonosis Innovation)

The ERC INZI project sought to analyse the interplay of actors, policies and projects that have shaped research into and control of African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness in humans) since the earlier scientific discoveries, through the colonial period, the era of ‘neglect’, until the present day as we enter the era of elimination. The overarching concern of the project was to explore the nature of innovation around trypanosomiasis control, making use of a series of connected extended case studies, drawing on both primary and secondary material. The research aimed to do three things. 1) Document and periodise the broad shifts in knowledge production and technological innovation regarding the control and treatment of African Trypanosomiasis in humans and animals. 2) Trace multi-dimensional drivers of policy, research, scale and practice around disease control. 3) Reflect on the nature of pro-poor innovation – what drives it, what are strengths/weaknesses, how might innovation shift in the future?

Specific research concerns included:

• The interplay between and emergence of policy and practice networks in mediating particular scientific and technological trajectories at different scales (for example MDGs and SDGs, Elimination targets)
• The relationship between knowledge frontiers and innovation around trypanosomiasis research (for example molecular approaches to detection and drug development; the relative roles of the public and private sectors)
• The emergence of new institutional forms to drive innovation at particular moments (for example, institutions giving way to product development partnerships,
• The relationship between material technologies and their use in developing country contexts (for example how do technologies work in situ)

The research was organized around four broad themes, each of which engages with one of the four key biological actors: the human, the trypanosome, the cow and the fly. This organizational form allows detailed, historicised study of a range of research and innovation networks and facilitates

The Human – This work focused on tracing efforts to improve the diagnosis of disease as a means to control outbreaks and ultimately eliminate it. It traces colonial attempts to control the disease shaped by limited scientific knowledge, through to more recent disease flare ups. The role of new rapid diagnostic tests and the role they play in complete health systems and in moving towards disease elimination is also explored.

The Trypanosome – This work traces a 100-year history of research into the development of new drugs to treat the disease in humans. It moves from the emergence of tropical research, through a period of relative neglect where no new treatments were made available to a post-colonial, post-neglect area where new partnerships and approaches are fundamentally changing the drug pipeline.

The Animal – This work analyses the evolution of institutional arrangements to conduct research into the effect of trypanosomiasis on cattle in East Africa. It traces the emergence of colonial research stations and veterinary extension services, their subsequent replacement with international research stations, and finally a shift towards more networked, hybrid approaches as responses to demands for new technologies that require new scientific capabilities.

The Tsetse Fly – This work traces multiple narratives of attempts to develop new approaches to controlling the insect vector – ranging from ambitious, continental pan-African approaches to spraying to so-called ‘tiny targets’ and everything in between. This work teases out the politics of new approaches, each of which reflects a slightly different take on the context, the value of technology and evidence.