The grand challenge of eradication – Gates Foundation is looking for new tools

At the beginning of this month Gates announced the second round of its Grand Challenges Explorations initiative. The original Grand Challenges in Global Health sought to identify the most critical scientific challenges in global health and direct funding towards solving them. The Explorations Initiative, which accepted its first round of applications last spring, seeks to fund even bolder, less conventional ideas which have never been tested. The program provides $100,000 and requires only a 2 page application. Successful completion of the project and demonstration of proof-of-concept enables recipients to apply for a second level of increased funding. With this round, the foundation added a topic of particular interest: “Create New Tools to Accelerate the Eradication of Malaria”. Some examples include:

New interventions designed to target human and vector populations that are hardest to reach

New interventions that will be valued and used by individuals and communities even after malaria rates fall and the perceived threat of the disease is low

New tools and technologies for monitoring and surveillance of the pathogen, including methods to detect latent and subclinical infection in both human and non-human reservoirs and vectors

New tools and approaches for reducing malaria transmission, especially from low levels to zero

New strategies to apply interventions to populations, such as those considering the underlying heterogeneity of human, mosquito, and parasite populations in space and time

Political and financial commitments will be first and foremost towards embarking on any major effort. Obtaining these (with some level of confidence) is a perilous proposition in itself but will not be sufficient for many parts of the world which have high vectorial capacity (in plain English – really efficient mosquitoes). Data from a number of long term field trials and mathematical models along indicate our inability to eliminate parasite reservoirs in these areas even with near universal application of current interventions. Whether eradication should be on the table is another question altogether, but if Gates is serious about eradicating malaria then finding new tools is a solid move.


4 Responses to “The grand challenge of eradication – Gates Foundation is looking for new tools”

  1. 1 Gil October 24, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    Innovations are out there in field. They are in the minds of experienced field workers, not in the laboratory nor in the confines of the office. Field conditions differ from experimental condition. It will fail the rigidity required by scientific investigations.
    Strenghtening monitoring and evaluation will identify these practices. Most of them will surely pass the rigors of field condition. The day to day solution to the surfacing problem. Malaria armament for elimination is available. The required skill to use them properly is sorely inadequate. Experience malariologist like Allan Shafira has to be cloned.
    I am going to write my experience in my blogsite that was just created. You will get interested about the innovations made that helped eliminate malaria in our province at least. One entry was already posted and several more will follow. The future topics are malaria dynamics, Malaria Transmission Scoring System, stratification and many more. They are result of my 2 decades of experience in the field of malaria control program.
    The exploraton challenge will be able to identify more innovations like this if this information reached the malaria field workers which most of the time are in areas beyond the reach of internet.
    Let’s eliminate malaria once and for all. It is attainable given the huge amount of resources available today. Use them efficiently.

  2. 2 naman October 27, 2008 at 12:00 pm


    I’m happy to hear about your work in the Philippines – I agree with current tools we can eliminate malaria in similar settings and the largest bottleneck is in the challenge you mention in the lack of experienced control staff and program management capacity.

    Look forward to reading your posts,


  1. 1 Mosquito syringes and more funded by the Gates foundations grand challenges | topnaman Trackback on October 28, 2008 at 11:57 am
  2. 2 A research agenda towards malaria elimination | topnaman | Malaria blog Trackback on December 15, 2008 at 9:01 am
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