If you were listening to American Public Media’s Marketplace yesterday, you heard a report from the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon (which has the lowest documented mortality rate in all of Africa for children hospitalized with severe malaria, and where ASF sends senior medical students to provide skilled medical care each year). The report explored the international public-private collaboration forged by the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:
Unlike most drug trials in Africa, the bulk of the funding has been invested right here, in Africa. By building first-rate hospitals and labs and upgrading facilities and equipment to Western standards. And, of course, developing motivated scientists like Dr. Maxime Agnandji.
Agnandji heads the Albert Schweitzer Hospital lab’s malaria vaccine research unit, and is a principal investigator for the vaccine’s final test. He told Marketplace that “it’s not only exciting to work on a solution to a mainly African problem, but on a project that’s changing the face of medical research in Africa”:
AGNANJDI: Since the 10 last years there is improvement in training, to control diseases. I’ve met many, many doctors from different countries, all are from Africa. Young researchers from Africa.
If the vaccine’s final trial is effective, the next challenge will be making it accessible and affordable. Joe Cohen, the Glaxo-Smith-Kline scientist who invented the vaccine, told Marketplace that a priority will be placed on making the vaccine low-cost:
JOE COHEN: It makes sense. This malaria vaccine, in contrast to many other vaccines, is exclusively meant for African children. There is no other market for it. It would be crazy for us after 25 years of work on malaria vaccine to do anything that would prevent this vaccine from being accessible and to see this vaccine just sitting on a shelf.