The MESA Alliance and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health organised, in collaboration with ISGlobal, a center supported by "la Caixa", and other institutions, a one-day forum in Washington DC on January 11 titled “Innovate for Collective Impact to End Malaria” to bring together key stakeholders in the fight against the disease and frame a response to the current standstill.
Indeed, after two decades of unprecedented achievements, the fight against malaria has stalled, as the last reports of the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirm: 219 million cases in 2017 versus 214 million in 2010.
Regina Rabinovich, chair of MESA and director of the Malaria Elimination Initiative at ISGlobal, presented the challenge and opportunities to leverage research to solve the emerging problems in malaria. WHO Global Malaria Programme Director, Pedro Alonso, briefed the group (via video conference) on the findings of the World Malaria Report, while US NIAID director Anthony Fauci gave the keynote lecture on the role of biomedical research in responding to the global challenges. Throughout the day, researchers discussed the development of vaccines, drugs and vector control tools, basic science, and the potential for entirely new tools like monoclonal antibodies.
The sessions covered topics such as how to achieve sustainable funding, innovation in the face of insecticide and drug resistance, communicating complex messages, and maximising innovations in high-burden countries.
“One of the conclusions of the day is the need to find a new way of funding advanced product development because there are currently few incentives for industry engagement”, observes Rabinovich. And as this is a crucial year for the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a core focus of the day was on the current funding situation, and thoughts over future financing strategies to reach the targets. “Certainly, high-burden countries should reaffirm their political will and invest more resources. But we must find the means to increase or at least sustain international funds to surpass this standstill and avoid going backwards,” adds Rafael Vilasanjuan, director of Policy and Global Development at ISGlobal, who also attended the meeting.