A new website is seeking to enlist members of the public in the fight against malaria by encouraging them to donate directly to research projects in developing countries.
MalariaEngage.org, launched to coincide with World Malaria Day (25 April), hopes to tap into the success of social networking sites such as YouTube by building a global community of people who each contribute as little as US$10 to a choice of research projects.
"It is my dream that tens of thousands of people will use MalariaEngage to build a movement that will see through the challenges of eradicating malaria to the very end," Tom Hadfield, co-founder of the site and a British entrepreneur studying at Harvard University in the United States, told SciDev.Net.
Hadfield came up with the concept following a trip to Sub-Saharan Africa last summer, where he witnessed first hand the devastation caused by malaria — which kills 3,000 children every day in the region — and met some of the researchers working to find solutions.
He found that researchers in developing countries have difficulty getting attention and obtaining funding.
"The whole point of MalariaEngage is to put people in direct contact with African researchers," Peter Singer, another co-founder of MalariaEngage and professor at Canada's McLaughlin–Rotman Centre for Global Health, told SciDev.Net.
Social networking tools form part of the site, including a discussion forum for funding contributors to contact researchers for progress reports.
"There is nothing like that available anywhere else at the moment," says Singer.
Abdullah Daar, also a co-founder of the site and professor at the McLaughlin–Rotman Centre, says this new approach to supporting malaria eradication could attract an audience who hadn't contributed to such causes before.
The initial pilot projects requesting support are from the National Institute for Medical Research in Tanzania.
"Our ultimate vision is [to reach] a point where no good idea from an African researcher has to go into the dustbin because it is underfunded," says Singer.
"We are a long way from that goal but … we are ready to go to scale with more institutions and more projects, based on the demand that we receive from the global Internet public."