UKZN’s Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Programme sponsored a total of 20 researchers, PhD candidates and research administrative staff to attend a two-day workshop focusing on grant-writing and grant management for the United States’ National Institutes for Health (NIH).

One of the world's foremost medical research agencies and a leading supporter of biomedical research globally, NIH provides financial support in the form of grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. This assistance supports the advancement of the NIH mission of enhancing health, extending healthy life, and reducing the burdens of illness and disability.

At a global level, UKZN strives to nurture international institutional partnerships such as its long-standing relationship with the NIH.

Early last year, Dr Francis Collins, Director for NIH, along with the Head of the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) led a US delegation on a visit of UKZN HIV/AIDS research project sites. Delegates started with a tour of the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute, followed by a visit to the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), and had an opportunity to see the building site and the plans for the new K-RITH building, currently under construction on the medical campus.

Along with CAPRISA, UKZN’S Enhancing Care Initiative (ECI) is part of the NIH-funded network. In 2010 ECI successfully applied for the MEPI grant and was awarded $10 million over five years for medical training and training in the management of HIV and TB.

Consequently, the workshop appealed to attendees who are currently managing NIH grants or plan to apply for and/or manage NIH grants in the foreseeable future.

It allowed participants to gain an in-depth understanding of NIH policies, funding opportunities, application processes, budgeting, management of awards and reporting, and how these are applied and implemented at UKZN.

The workshop also covered the various types of NIH grants, UKZN’s financial support role, the NIH’s review process, financial conflict of interest and included lots of group work. Participants also benefited from presentations on subcontracting and consortiums, and payment management systems.

CAPRISA partnered with UKZN’s Legal Services Unit to facilitate the workshop.

Ms Marian Swart, Chief Operations Officer for CAPRISA and workshop facilitator, said it was important to hold the workshop and participants had many questions.

Dr Ozayr Mohamed from the Department of Public Health Medicine who attended the workshop said the information disseminated was relevant to anybody who is interested in NIH grants.

Dr Okpara Azu, a Senior Lecturer and researcher in UKZN’s Discipline of Clinical Anatomy said: ‘NIH is one of the biggest sources of funding at UKZN. To remain at an advantage in research at UKZN, it is important to attend such workshops because the NIH looks for quality.’
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