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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 October 2005, 22:43 GMT
Gates gives 28m to malaria team

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates is donating 28m to a UK research centre as part of a 145m ($258.3m) gift to malaria research worldwide.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting three international projects over five years.

One project at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine will look at ways to control the mosquitoes that spread malaria.

Others will look for new malaria drugs and environmentally-safe insecticides.

Mosquito nets

Mr Gates said malaria was a "forgotten epidemic".

"Millions of children have died from malaria because they were not protected by an insecticide-treated bed net, or did not receive effective treatment," he said.

"If we expand malaria control programs, and invest what's needed in research and development, we can stop this tragedy."

Children's drug

Liverpool's Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC), will use its grant to develop safer, more effective, and longer-lasting insecticides for mosquito control.

It will also develop improved bed nets and other insecticide-treated materials, and help health authorities determine how to deploy insecticides and bed nets for maximum impact.

Another project - the Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) - is conducting trials in Mozambique of GlaxoSmithKline's malaria vaccine.

It said it appeared to offer partial protection for young children, cutting their risk of severe malaria by 58%.

It is hoped that after further trials, which will involve more than 10,000 children and check that the vaccine is safe when given with other childhood vaccines, it can be introduced into Africa's immunisation programme by around 2011, said Dr. Melinda Moree, director of MVI.

There is an urgent need for new drugs to treat malaria
Dr Chris Hentschel from MMV

The MVI will receive $107.6 million (60.4m) for this work.

Meanwhile, the Medicines for Malaria Venture will receive $100 million (56.1m) to develop new malaria drugs that will be affordable and practical for use in poorer countries.

Dr Chris Hentschel from MMV said: "We're developing 20 promising compounds, and six are already in clinical trials.

"There is an urgent need for new drugs to treat malaria."

'More needed'

He said that in Africa resistance to the commonly used drug chloroquine was as high as 80% and that newer artemisinin-based combination drugs were often in short supply and expensive.

"Our goal is to develop a range of effective drugs that cost $1 or less per person treated," he said.

The Malaria R&D Alliance, an international group of malaria organizations, says more funding is still needed to rapidly expand access to existing malaria control strategies such as bed nets, mosquito control, and combination drug treatment.

It estimates that $3.2 billion needs to be invested each year in order to cut malaria deaths in half by 2010.

Last year $323 million was invested in malaria research and development - less than one-third of 1% of total global spending on health-related research and development.

A spokeswoman from The Roll Back Malaria Partnership Secretariat said the new funding from the Gates' would make a big difference.

"We absolutely have to have more funds for research. As quickly as we can develop new drugs we also have drug resistance."

She said funding should also be given to operational research to make sure that communities affected by malaria know how best to protect themselves against the disease.

Bill Gates explains why the research is important



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