With an eye to eradicating the disease, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a 30 percent increase in its malaria program budget, to more than $200 million a year, the Associated Press reports.
Announced over the weekend at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the increased commitment includes a five-year, $156 million grant to the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) to develop vaccines that prevent mosquitoes from infecting people, and vice versa. People living in malaria-affected regions often develop natural immunity to the disease, and while they may not show symptoms after they've been infected, they can transmit the parasite to mosquitoes, which then infect other people. MVI's two-pronged strategy is to develop vaccines that combine anti-infection vaccines that prevent people from becoming infected after being bitten by infected mosquitoes with transmission-blocking vaccines that prevent mosquitoes from becoming infected after feeding on an infected person. The initiative aims to advance at least one vaccine candidate through early-stage field trials and have the evidence to declare a candidate for product development as early as the end of 2017.
The new funding will be in addition to the foundation's contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and is part of more than $500 million committed this year to fight infectious diseases such as malaria, Ebola, pneumonia, dengue fever, and chikungunya in poor countries.
Describing the goal of malaria eradication before the middle of the twenty-first century as "both a necessary objective and an attainable one," Gates Foundation co-founder Bill Gates urged greater investment in scientific innovation. "I really do believe that malaria can be eradicated in my lifetime," said Gates. "Small steps won’t get the job done. History shows that the only way to stop malaria is to end it forever."