On Tuesday while we were at our staff retreat in Baltimore the Gates Foundation was hosting a forum in Seattle with 300 scientists from around the world to release the latest information about its campaign to eradicate malaria. I wrote The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men because I thought there were so many lessons to be learned from that work that were directly applicable to our goal of ending childhood hunger. Tuesday’s results only reinforced that belief. There were three specific points worth noting.
First, In a report published by Roll Back Malaria at the start of the forum, it was shown that seven countries recently eliminated malaria (their “proof of concept” countries) and that up to a third of the 108 countries where malaria is endemic are moving toward being able to eliminate it. The results were widely reported and seen as inspiring more nations and donors to join the fight.
Second, results were released of the largest clinical trial ever of a malaria vaccine – RTS,S (a competitor to Steve Hoffman who I wrote about) developed by GlaxoSmithKline after 25 years of research and more than $300 million spent. It was tested in more than 16,000 children across seven countries. Only half were protected. It is still considered a major milestone in malaria research, though as one prominent researcher pointed out underscoring the difficulty of eradication: “The reality is that malaria does fight back.”
Finally, In 2007 Gates and his wife Melinda urged the international community to fight for the global elimination of malaria saying that to aspire to anything less would be “timid”. On Tuesday Bill Gates, (sounding like Josh!) challenged the malaria community to be “smarter, faster, and more ambitious”. Gates added: “it will take leadership, innovation and money to plan for malaria’s eventual eradication.” It’s noteworthy that he put “leadership” first – precisely the point of our Conference of Leaders, and the key ingredient we must assess at every level of our work.