Malaria remains one of the most intractable diseases in the developing world, killing one million people a year and damaging the economic productivity of many more. Large resources have already been poured into combating the disease, yet a McKinsey study has noted that $11 billion more would be needed to end malaria deaths in the 30 worst-affected African countries. One promising alternative funded with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a vaccine. In 2011, the first-ever malaria vaccine was announced. It is still in trial stages, but so far seems to prevent severe symptoms in half of the individuals who receive it, while offering extra protection to infants and toddlers. While efficacy rates need to be improved before the vaccine is put into wide use, the initial findings have begun discussions about the long-dreamed-of possibility of widespread immunization in endemic countries.
In 2013, the Gates Foundation entered into an innovative pact with a consortium of investors and drug makers that will invest in bringing to market new therapies like a malaria vaccine, as well as drugs and technologies combating diseases like tuberculosis and HIV that also weigh heavily on poor countries. Gates’s role will be to offset potential losses in the so-called Global Health Investment Fund. By eliminating some of the downside risk in the expensive business of developing new medicines, the foundation intends to stimulate more aggressive private investment.
The Gates Foundation also continues to spend heavily on other types of anti-malaria research and on treatment and practical measures to eliminate the disease. For instance, it announced in 2016 that it would put up $200 million per year over the following five years to support a new British blitz to eliminate malaria deaths.
- New England Journal of Medicine on vaccine trial results, nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1102287