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Brussels, 24 April 2013
Contribution of EU research to fight against Malaria
Why is the EU devoting resources to Malaria research?
Malaria is one of the world's most deadliest diseases, killing one person roughly every minute. There are more than 200 million new cases every year, most of them in children and pregnant women in developing countries. Under the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015, the EU is committed to working with the global community to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. In recent years, progress has been made in malaria control as a result of insecticide-treated bed nets and effective treatment. But the development of resistance to insecticides and medicines as well as the poor quality of the health systems in many affected countries pose threats to these achievements.
How much has the EU spent on Malaria research?
From 2002 to 2006, the EU funded 61 collaborative projects in malaria research for a total amount of €116,2 million, including support to clinical trials provided through the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). Since 2007, 67 new projects worth €142.3 million have been supported through the seventh research framework programme (FP7). They cover all areas - from basic research, vaccines, diagnostics and drugs to research on the mosquito vector and its control as well as research capacity building and training researchers.
What are the main areas of research being funded?
EU research is aimed at improving the prevention, diagnostics and treatment of malaria by supporting scientific collaboration between countries, sectors (public and private) and disciplines. A specific effort has been made to include endemic countries as participants in the projects. Support for research through the framework programmes has helped structure European malaria research around a few key areas: fundamental research to understand the disease, development of new malaria drugs, discovery of malaria vaccine, implementation research and research to control the mosquito, in addition to the support to clinical trials provided through the EDCTP.
What successes has the research had?
As a result of the funding effort, the parasite, the vector, the host/pathogen interactions and the disease are better known and new tools to fight the disease are being developed. In the past two years, additional effort has been made to address implementation research to evaluate best use of existing and new malaria control interventions in local health systems, and in the development and best use of diagnostics. For instance, the research project NANOMAL is developing a pioneering smartphone-like device that uses cutting-edge nanotechnology to detect not only the malaria infection but also any drug resistance from a pinprick of blood. If field trials later this year are successful the device could be deployed in developing countries from 2015.
What is the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership?
The European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) was created in 2003 as a European response to the global health crisis caused by the three main poverty-related diseases of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Its mission is to accelerate the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines, microbicides and diagnostics against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, with a focus on phase II and III clinical trials in sub-Saharan Africa. It currently unites 14 participating European Union (EU) Member States plus Norway and Switzerland with sub-Saharan African countries. To date, EDCTP has received €200 million in support from the European Union budget and a similar amount from the 16 participating European countries.
What has the EDCTP achieved?
Since 2003, the EDCTP has dedicated €49.4 million to malaria research through 41 grants for clinical trials and related capacity building activities. These grants allowed the launch of 32 clinical trials on improved treatments and new vaccine candidates, with 25 trials still on-going. Many of these clinical trials help improve and adapt existing medical interventions and drugs to specific, vulnerable target groups. For example, the Severe Malaria in Children network (SMAC) showed that three doses over two days of the drug artesunate are as effective as five doses over three days. This alternative regimen would lower the risk of incomplete treatment by the improved efficiency and reduce the cost of administering the treatment.
Overview of EU research to combat Malaria in FP6 & FP7 (2002-2013)