The Gates Foundation is committing $168 million over 5 years to the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI). MVI's mission is to accelerate the development of promising malaria vaccines, and to ensure that these vaccines are available and accessible in developing countries.
MVI will soon begin advanced clinical trials of its first-generation vaccine candidate, known as RTS,S. If these trials are successful, RTS,S could become the first-ever vaccine licensed for malaria. While this would be an historic milestone, it will still be important to pursue "second generation" vaccines that would provide greater and longer-lasting protection. MVI will use the new $168 million grant to pursue this goal of developing a robust pipeline of "second generation" vaccine candidates.
Goal 1: Ensure the development of P. falciparium vaccines with at high efficacy against clinical malaria in children and pregnant women.
Action: MVI will expand its existing portfolio to evaluate new antigens, platforms, and formulations, and eventually work towards developing combination vaccines which may prove more efficacious than RTS,S. MVI plans to introduce eight initiatives into its portfolio over the five-year grant period.
Goal 2: Ensure that P. falciparium malaria vaccines are available and affordable where needed.
Action: MVI will work to lay the foundation for a competitive market environment, partner with developing-country manufacturers to reduce costs, and work with stakeholders and donors to help ensure vaccine financing and catalyze the regulatory and policy processes that support vaccine availability and use.
Goal 3: Engage malaria-endemic countries to ensure ownership and leadership in ensuring access to future vaccines.
Action: MVI will work with WHO to support efforts to develop national regulatory capacity in countries conducting clinical trials for the vaccines.
Malaria represents one of the international community's most pressing public health problems. The parasitic, mosquito-borne disease is a leading cause of death and illness, hitting hardest in resource-poor tropical and subtropical regions. Hundreds of millions of people suffer every year from the effects of malaria, which annually kills more than one million people, most of them young African children.
Clearly, this disease must be stopped. While drugs, insecticide-treated bednets, and other interventions are currently being used to help reduce malaria's impact, the parasite is complex and adaptable, and it has survived for millennia. We need many tools to defeat this disease-tools that save lives today and those with the potential to save lives in the future. A safe, effective, and affordable malaria vaccine would close the gap left by other interventions.
Why a vaccine?
A vaccine is an essential tool in stopping malaria because:
The current fight against the disease is being waged on a variety of fronts, including the distribution of bednets, the promotion of indoor spraying, and the development of new medicines and insecticides. A vaccine would close the gap left by these interventions.
Malaria routinely develops resistance to drugs. Mosquitoes routinely develop resistance to insecticides.
From small pox to polio to whooping cough, vaccines have offered a cost-effective and efficacious means of preventing disease and death.
Even a modestly efficacious malaria vaccine would protect hundreds of thousands of people from disease and death each year.