SEATTLE -- PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health), a Seattle-based nonprofit, announced today that Bill and Melinda Gates have donated $50 million to support a new Malaria Vaccine Initiative. The grant from the William H. Gates Foundation will advance development of a new vaccine to prevent malaria, the most prevalent of all tropical diseases.
It is estimated that a third of the world's population, about 2.3 billion people, are at risk of infection from Malaria and that about 300-500 million people are infected each year. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 2 million individuals die from malaria each year, most of them children. This means a child dies of malaria every twenty seconds. Survivors often are weakened or disabled; the costs of malaria in lost productivity may reach as high as 20 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in some developing countries.
"Malaria is exacting an enormous toll on the health and economic well-being of hundreds of millions of families, most of who live in developing countries," said Gordon W. Perkin, M.D., President of PATH. "Although drugs that treat the illness have been around for some time, the malaria parasite continues to develop resistance to these drugs. The world badly needs a vaccine."
One of the challenges facing development of an effective malaria vaccine is the genetic complexity of the parasite. The malaria virus has an amazing capacity to outwit the immune system of its victims. Scientists are nonetheless optimistic that a malaria vaccine is feasible, based on promising clinical tests. It is clear however, that major resources and a concerted effort from multiple organizations such as World Health Organization, World Bank and UNICEF will be required to achieve a vaccine that can be widely distributed.
Bill Gates, Sr., Director of the William H. Gates Foundation said, "Bill and Melinda are enthusiastic about the opportunity to improve the lives of people throughout the world, and hope coordinated efforts like these will achieve major gains in global health."
The program will be administered through PATH, an international, nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve health, especially the health of women and children. PATH works in partnership with host-country governments and local agencies to assess health problems and identify and implement creative and effective solutions.
The Malaria Vaccine Initiative follows an earlier grant to PATH by Bill and Melinda Gates to support a Children's Vaccine Program, and will benefit from the same group of international health experts assembled to provide guidance to that program. Other recent gifts from Bill and Melinda Gates include a $50 million grant to Columbia University for a program to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries, a $25 million grant to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to speed development of an effective vaccine to prevent HIV infection, and a $5 million grant to the International Consortium for Blood Safety to improve the safety of blood transfusion worldwide to eliminate the disparity between the high level of blood safety in the United States and Europe in comparison to the level of safety in the developing world.
Information about the Malaria Vaccine Initiative will be found at www.MalariaVaccine.org debuting June 15, 1999 and can be emailed to info@MalariaVaccine.org