Nearly 40 years ago, Dr. Charles Mérieux, chairman of the Mérieux Foundation, and Prof. Jacques Monod, director of the Institut Pasteur, decided to address the inaccessibility of vaccines in Africa. They asked Philippe Stoeckel, who had previously worked for Dr. Mérieux and was then a student at the Institut Pasteur, to develop a project to deal with the issue. That’s when Stoeckel came up with the idea for the nonprofit organization Agence de Médecine Préventive, or AMP.
With funding primarily from the Foundation Mérieux and the French Ministry of Cooperation, AMP set up shop in Bobo-Dioulasso, Upper Volta (now named Burkina Faso) in 1972. The objective was to create a regional office to facilitate work in the eight Francophone member countries of the Organisation de Coordination et de Cooperation pour la Lutte Contre les Grandes Endemies (OCCGE): Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
Off to a Strong Start: Strengthening Immunization Systems and Strategies (1970s)
The early mission of AMP was to enhance vaccine delivery and the diagnosis of infectious diseases. Working in close collaboration with the OCCGE, AMP focused on improving sample collection for laboratory diagnosis of yellow fever, monkeypox, cholera, measles, and meningococcal meningitis.
Very quickly, the organization expanded its focus from surveillance to clinical trials and effectiveness studies. By the end of the 1970s, AMP was heavily involved in the development and testing of two vaccines in particular: meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine, groups A and C, and enhanced inactivated polio vaccine (eIPV). The development of the latter was done in collaboration with Dr. Jonas Salk, Dr. Charles Mérieux, and Dr. Hans Cohen. To facilitate their work, they created the Forum for the Advancement of Immunization Research (FAIR), for which AMP acted as Secretariat.
Partnering Up to Improve Vaccine Coverage and Health Services (1980s)
In the following decade, AMP worked with UNICEF, WHO, and other partners to develop the Universal Child Immunization (UCI) initiative (launched by UNICEF Executive Director James Grant) in West Africa, notably Burkina Faso.
At this time, the need to train local health workers in epidemiology became clear. AMP partnered with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1983 to develop applied epidemiology in France and French-speaking Africa. This resulted in the creation of the Institute for the Development of Applied Epidemiology (IDEA), which offered training to both French and African health professionals.
Expanding Presence, Growing Impact (1990s)
The 1990s were a turning point for immunization and AMP. The 4th International Seminar on Immunization in Africa—organized by AMP in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire in 1994—highlighted concerns about safety of injections, effectiveness of immunization, health economics, and sustainability of immunization. As a result, AMP expanded its activities to focus on these areas, creating, for example, the EPIGEPS training program in epidemiology and health management.
Near the end of the decade, AMP got involved with the William H. Gates Foundation, PATH, and other partners to establish a strategic sustainable alliance for immunization that would become the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI Alliance) in 2000.
Present and Future
In the 2000s, AMP continued to collaborate with a diverse range of industry actors, bridging the gap between the public and private sector. In 2002, in support of the GAVI process in Africa and with an unrestricted grant from Sanofi Pasteur, it designed and launched the EPIVAC© training program.
With approximately 60 employees located in several countries on four continents, AMP remains committed to the core values established nearly four decades ago. We continue to work closely with regional and international public health partners—from ministries of health to the vaccine industry—to combat infectious diseases and to support sustainable health policies in poor countries.
AMP is now focusing on becoming a more efficient organization and increasing its activities in areas outside of Africa, notably in Southeast Asia.