U.K., Gates pledge $4.3B to take malaria fight beyond vax

Bill Gates

While the European Medicines Agency gave the world's first malaria vaccine a regulatory nod last July, the vaccine isn't perfect, conferring only partial immunity that wanes over time. On Monday, Bill Gates and Chancellor George Osborne, the British finance minister, announced a £3 billion fund ($4.28 billion) to support research and efforts to eradicate malaria.

The British overseas aid budget will contribute £500 million each year over the next 5 years, with the remainder of the fund coming from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Agence France-Presse reported. The fund builds on a previous pledge that the U.K. made in November to spend £1 billion to fight malaria and other infectious diseases.

"The biggest project that our foundation supports in Liverpool is coming up with new chemicals to go into those bed nets that mosquitoes are not resistant to," Gates said, as quoted by AFP.

This isn't the first foray that the Gates Foundation is making into malaria. It has provided more than $28 billion to malaria research, including to GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative.

GlaxoSmithKline's Mosquirix, the world's first malaria vaccine, isn't a complete solution, said Andrew Witty, GSK CEO when the EMA gave it the green light. But if used alongside other interventions, such as bed nets and insecticides, it would make a "meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria," he said.

However, in its 2015 World Malaria Report, the World Health Organization warned that malaria mosquitoes were developing resistance to antimalarial drugs and insecticides, further underscoring the need for innovative solutions to tackle malaria.

The Malaria Vaccine Initiative is working on new vaccines to prevent the spread of malaria, both by preventing people bitten by malaria mosquitoes from falling ill and preventing infected people from passing the parasite onto the mosquitoes that bite them. And Rockville, MD-based Sanaria scored $48.5 million from the government of Equatorial Guinea and oil and gas companies to develop a whole-parasite vaccine for malaria.

- read the AFP story