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NEW YORK -- Bill Gates announced today that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide $168.7 million to PATH for its Malaria Vaccine Initiative to develop vaccines for malaria – a disease that kills thousands of African children every day.
The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) is working with GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals to develop a first-generation vaccine candidate, known as RTS,S, which could become the first-ever approved malaria vaccine. With the new grant announced today, MVI will support the development of next-generation vaccines that could provide even greater and longer-lasting protection.
“I’m very hopeful that the malaria vaccine currently in advanced testing will be proven effective, but that will just be the first step,” said Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “Now it’s time to develop a new generation of vaccines that are even more effective, and could someday help eradicate malaria altogether.”
Gates announced the new funding at the UN Millennium Development Goals Malaria Summit, a meeting of heads of state, CEOs, UN officials, and other leaders. At the event, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership launched the Global Malaria Action Plan, a comprehensive global strategy to fight malaria. The Gates Foundation grant and other commitments announced today will help address key priorities in the Action Plan.
Grant to Support Research on a New Generation of Malaria Vaccines
The Gates Foundation grant will support MVI’s efforts to expand its vaccine R&D pipeline with projects ranging from early-stage laboratory research to advanced clinical testing. MVI will work with partners to discover new antigens and adjuvants that could lead to more effective vaccines, and develop new tools to select the most promising candidates for further development.
MVI will also work to foster a more competitive vaccine marketplace and help ensure that future vaccines will be affordable and accessible in developing countries. They will conduct market assessments, demand forecasting, and modeling studies to guide policymakers and vaccine manufacturers, and partner with vaccine makers in developing countries to keep costs low.
“These new funds are recognition that we have a solid research and development strategy, and the team to deliver on it,” said Dr. Christian Loucq, Director of MVI. “This commitment should signal to potential research partners that the time is ripe to work with us to help defeat this horrible disease. Already, we have added to our roster of partners and entered into collaborative agreements on vaccine components, ways to boost their potency, and methods for testing their biological activity.”
“Our strategy for developing a malaria vaccine follows the PATH approach to neglected diseases, which has shown that investment in core areas of research and development, particularly vaccine technology, does yield important advances,” said Dr. Christopher J. Elias, president and CEO of PATH. “The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative is now ready to accelerate further the development of what the world urgently needs: safe, effective, and affordable vaccines that reduce the suffering caused by malaria.”
The grant addresses one of the priorities in the new Global Malaria Action Plan, released today by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. The plan provides a unified global strategy for fighting malaria, including greater use of today’s tools, and research on vaccines and other new technologies.
“The Global Malaria Action Plan makes a compelling case for greater investment in malaria,” said Gates. “If we have the chance to save millions of lives, and a clear plan to make it happen, we have an obligation to act. We’re committed to supporting a range of efforts to make the Action Plan a reality – today’s grant is just the first step.”
New Malaria Control Success in Zambia and Ethiopia
Gates hailed new data from the World Malaria Report, released last week by WHO, showing encouraging progress against malaria in several African countries through 2006. He also highlighted more recent data from Zambia and Ethiopia that further demonstrate the impact of aggressive, large-scale malaria control programs.
The Zambian health ministry reported this week that since 2006, malaria control efforts have helped to reduce malaria parasite prevalence in children by 50%. Since 2002, the percentage of households with at least one insecticide-treated mosquito net has increased from 14% to 60%, and malaria control successes have helped to reduce overall child mortality by 29%.
Earlier this month, Ethiopia's health ministry announced that it has reached nearly 70% of households in high-risk areas with at least one insecticide-treated mosquito net and/or indoor residual spraying, and that effective malaria treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapy is now available nationwide.
“The good news from Ethiopia and Zambia demonstrates that extraordinary progress can be made against malaria, even in the poorest and most remote communities,” said Gates. “By building on and replicating these successes globally, we can save millions of lives.”
Both countries are partners in the Malaria Control and Evaluation Partnership in Africa (MACEPA), a PATH initiative that is funded by the Gates Foundation.