A perspective on World Malaria Day 2012
Dr. David Kaslow, director of the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, looks at progress and work that remains to be done
April 25, 2012 – This fifth World Malaria Day is an opportunity for us to recognize the progress that the global malaria community has made against malaria, particularly in the last decade, and to take a strategic look at the work that remains to create a world free of this disease. The 655,000 lives lost and the millions who suffer every year should always be at the top of our minds as we research, develop, fund, partner, and work to use existing interventions and to build new tools for the fight against malaria.
At MVI, World Malaria Day 2012 is also a time to acknowledge the partners and donors who have made possible the progress toward a malaria vaccine. Thanks to their sustained support and hard work, the malaria vaccine effort has taken a significant step forward, with a first-generation vaccine candidate—GlaxoSmithKline’s RTS,S—in late-stage development. This vaccine candidate appears able to help protect young children in Africa against severe malaria and clinical disease caused by the deadly Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite. Thus, MVI’s priorities will include supporting RTS,S through the final stages of development. Eventually, if the vaccine candidate is approved and recommended for use, MVI would be ready to help ensure that it is delivered to the children in endemic countries who need it.
Even as RTS,S advances through the final stages of development, MVI is working with new and long-time partners across the globe—from countries in Europe and Africa to India and the United States—to identify and advance the development of next-generation vaccine approaches. Collaboration and data-driven decision-making are at the heart of MVI’s approach to accelerate the development of malaria vaccines and to ensure their availability and accessibility in the developing world.
Our portfolio now includes transmission-blocking vaccine approaches, one of which is in a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health. These approaches seek to disrupt the life cycle of the malaria parasite and interrupt transmission of the parasite by mosquitoes. We are continuing to weigh approaches against P. vivax, the malaria parasite that, though less deadly than P. falciparum, sickens many more people in many more places.
Our work goes beyond the science of vaccine research and development as we work to answer key questions: how, when, and where might a malaria vaccine best be used? How can it best complement existing and new interventions? How will communities and individuals value a malaria vaccine? Do developing countries have the data they need to make the best informed decisions and the infrastructure to effectively deliver a new vaccine? Who will pay for a malaria vaccine and how? How much more investment will be needed in 5, 10, 20 years? Answers to these and other questions are critical to guiding our investments and our research strategy.
We look forward to continued productive collaborations throughout the remainder of 2012, including the availability of the next set of RTS,S Phase 3 results sometime this fall. On a personal note, I am honored and thrilled to lead the team at MVI and to join with our many partners in the shared goals of first creating and then sustaining a world free of malaria.