IMAGE BY UTE FREVERT; FALSE COLOR BY MARGARET SHEAR
Thanks to a steady rise in R&D funding aimed at malaria since the early 1990s, researchers around the world have built the strongest pipeline of potential treatments in history, according to a report from the non-profit research group Policy Cures. The impressive array includes nearly 50 drugs in development and dozens of vaccine candidates, one of which is now in a Phase III trial in Africa. In addition, new insecticides for controlling mosquito populations and improved diagnostic tests supplement the R&D effort, which was supported by $612 million in 2009.
"In the coming years, the fruits of this unprecedented investment in malaria research and development could save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives," Awa Marie Coll-Seck, executive director of Roll Back Malaria (RBM), which commissioned the report, told Reuters. "This robust product pipeline gives us hope that eradication of malaria is possible."
But a drop in funding could mean catastrophe, the report noted, disrupting current research programs and possibly costing more in the end. In fact, to control and eventually eradicate malaria, funding needs to continually increase, by nearly $80 million before 2015, and another $100 million in 2016.