The global health community is abuzz with possibilities for malaria – media attention on the disease last week, leading up to World Malaria Day, provided us a glimpse of this interest. Since Bill and Melinda Gates issued their call for the global elimination of malaria in late 2007, the global health sector are fired up about putting an end to a disease that kills a child every 30 seconds and imposes direct costs of $12 billion a year on sub-Saharan Africa. The commemoration of World Malaria Day on April 25 spotlights some of these efforts.
- The Roll Back Malaria Partnership launched a two-year campaign to ensure universal coverage of anti-malarial tools.
- A group of major donors announced a new program aiming to make powerful anti-malarial drugs affordable.
- Even celebrities like David Beckham and Ashton Kutcher have gotten in on the act through campaigns to purchase and distribute insecticide-treated nets to protect from mosquitoes while they sleep.
Now a renewed interest in malaria has led to new tools. The global community appears to have learned some lessons: current efforts include initiatives aimed at developing the next generation of tools. With increased research funding we’ve seen the birth of many malaria specific organizations including the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Malaria Vaccine Initiative, and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, for which malaria is one of several focal diseases. Older research organizations like the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute and the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases also have ramped up their investments in malaria research.
Many of these research groups are nonprofit organizations that receive most or all of their funding from governments and foundations. Private philanthropists can play an important role in funding key malaria research that will save lives. To help these donors understand targeted areas for potential of philanthropic R&D investment, the FasterCures Philanthropy Advisory Service is including malaria in the pilot. Look for the launch in June!
Let’s keep the attention on malaria spurred by World Malaria Day throughout the rest of the year. Here’s a glimpse at some of the coverage last week:
- Financial Times: Special Report: Combating Malaria
- CNN: A to Z of malaria
- CNN: Bioengineered bugs could lead to malaria vaccine
- BBC: 'Double whammy' malaria drug hope
- Washington Post: Immune cell offers new clue to worst malaria cases