USAID Awards $16 Million for New Malaria Initiatives
In its ongoing battle against one of the world's deadliest diseases, USAID awarded $16 million to two projects for malaria drug and vaccine research and development. The Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) at the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) and the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) each received four-year, $8 million grants.
PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and USAID's Malaria Vaccine Development Program (MVDP), are all working to accelerate the development of new interventions against malaria - from testing and manufacturing of candidate products to ensuring their accessibility and affordability in developing countries.
Due to rapid increase in resistance to widely used drugs and insecticides, malaria is on the rebound in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where it kills more children than any other disease.
"Only a limited number of alternative drugs are currently available," said Dr. E. Anne Peterson, Assistant Administrator for USAID's Bureau of Global Health. "As drug resistance increases, the choice of affordable and effective antimalarial drugs that are available and accessible for the population in the endemic countries has become much narrower. Research in new and better drugs is an absolutely critical part of USAID's malaria strategy."
"Maintaining the number of vaccine candidates moving into clinical trials and progressing through the product-development pipeline is essential," said Dr. Carter Diggs, senior technical advisor for USAID's Malaria Vaccine Development Program. "Those involved in research and development and those working to control the disease in the field must come together to ensure that all of the diverse activities being pursued will lead to improved control of this devastating disease."
MVI is a global program established through an initial grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. MVI has a broad portfolio of vaccine projects that includes 19 vaccine constructs targeted to different stages of the parasite.
MMV, a public-private partnership supported by a number of donor agencies, foundations and corporations, is at the forefront of the effort to develop new malaria drugs. It already has the largest-ever portfolio of antimalarials in development and the first ever portfolio designed to develop drugs as "public goods." The clinical development projects are gaining rapid momentum with five promising drug candidates in human clinical trials.
Both MMV and MVI operate through partnerships with governments, universities and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. "With this important decision to support MMV and MVI for research and development of drugs and vaccines, USAID is sending a clear message that malaria is a complex global problem, one that needs a commitment for both innovation and current treatment and control measures," said Dr. Christopher Hentschel, CEO of the MMV. "Increased investments in R&D are critical at this point because of the extraordinary promise already in the pipeline, a promise that should now be realized as quickly as possible so that we can soon bring new weapons to bear in an aggressive war against malaria."
"The agreements announced today allow each of us to extend and enhance our impact," said Dr. Melinda Moree, director of MVI.
USAID support forms the backbone of some of the most effective interventions against malaria, including insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) and antimalarial drugs. In addition to being the largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, USAID this year has committed over $80 million for malaria programs - almost a four-fold increase since 1998 when USAID's Infectious Disease Initiative was launched. These new and expanded resources have allowed for a significant scaling-up of malaria activities at the national level which have led to increased coverage with interventions, better policies and visibly stronger programs.
Despite being preventable and curable, malaria kills more than one million people each year, with the vast majority of the victims being young children and pregnant women. Every year, there are between 300-500 million cases of malaria and nearly 40 percent of the global population, mostly those living in the world's poorest regions, are at risk of the disease.