HYDERABAD, INDIA--A plan to launch an international attack on malaria is beginning to pick up steam. The Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) can bank on $2 million this year from a variety of sources, an official with the World Health Organization said here this week at an international malaria conference.
The idea of coordinating research efforts against malaria in Africa was seriously discussed in January at a malaria conference in Dakar, Senegal. Since then, the plan has been supported by Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who pledged $1.8 million to create a repository of research supplies that would be open to researchers in developing countries (Science, 13 June p. 1635). But no funding emerged for MIM itself last month when major pharmaceutical companies and foreign aid organizations met in The Hague.
Now, $1 million has been allocated by the NIH, another $500,000 by WHO's Tropical Diseases Research (TDR) Unit, and $250,000 by the World Bank, says TDR head Tore Godal. The remainder comes from Britain's Wellcome Trust and other organizations. The money, which may be used to help set up communications infrastructure among researchers, is "certainly a step in the right direction," Godal says. But he points out that even though malaria accounts for 2.5% of global disease, just 0.05% of all research funds are allocated to malaria research. Only a 20-fold increase in funds will match the real needs of the malaria researchers, Godal says.
The NIH-sponsored repository, details of which are still sketchy, already has African researchers excited. A reliable supply of standardized high-quality reagents "would certainly further research in Africa," says Andrew Kitua, scientific director of the Ifakara Center in Ifakara, Tanzania. The reagents, including purebred parasites and monoclonal antibodies, will be supplied free of cost to researchers, but NIH is still deciding who will be eligible.