US$ 106 million to set up ten malaria research centres
Malaria control and elimination efforts have received US$106 million funding for ten new centres aimed at strengthening research and training capacity in endemic regions around the world.
International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMR) is a seven-year initiative that has established a collaborative network with local institutions in areas including parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Islands.
The centres will conduct research into topics such as vector biology, parasite behavior, human response, ecology, and changes in the environment, Malla Rao, ICEMR's programme director, told SciDev.Net.
The sites selected for the programme, Rao added, are very different from each other in terms of human populations and the extent of malaria transmission — so some of the findings are likely to be region specific.
But researchers "hope to benefit from the expertise and experience of other centres in terms of research methods, study design, the sharing of unpublished results, training tools and the transfer of technology," Grant Dorsey, from the University of California, San Francisco, and leader of the Uganda ICEMR told SciDev.Net.
Even though malaria is different in every place, there are common concerns and challenges for all the centers, said Terrie Taylor, at the Michigan State University and principal investigator of the Malawi ICEMR.
According to Rao, one of the most important goals of the programme will be to track control activities in real time to see how they affect malaria dynamics — epidemiology and transmission mechanisms.
"We are hoping that the research findings will help inform local policy … [on] what works and what doesn't work," said Rao.
The wide global reach of the ICEMR program is welcome "as there is often too much emphasis placed on Sub-Saharan Africa at the expense of other major endemic areas like Amazonia, India, and Oceania," said Ian Boulton, managing director of TropMed Pharma consulting firm and member of the Coordination, Rationalisation, and Integration of Antimalarial Drug Discovery and Development Initiatives (CRIMALDDI).
For this programme to be successful, he added, it must deliver information that can be used to design better control strategies at a local level, while informing the global debate on how to take forward malaria control and elimination.
The launch of centres was announced last month (8 July) by the US-based National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is providing the funding.