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Map of progress against malaria, courtesy of the Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the world’s leading funders in the battle to defeat malaria, which is both a good and bad thing.

To give an overview of the progress against malaria to date, the Gates Foundation has posted on its website this global map of malaria showing country-by-country how many deaths are estimated to have been prevented through the increased distribution of bednets and insecticides. Go to link, below is a screen grab only.

Gates Foundation

So how could it be a bad thing for the Seattle philanthropy to be one of the leading sources of funding for the fight against malaria? As this article in notes, some are concerned that malaria funding has become too concentrated on select research priorities set by a handful of organizations:

(M)alaria R&D funding must be more efficiently distributed. At present, the majority of funding goes toward drug development (38 per cent), vaccines (28 per cent) and basic research (23 per cent). Diagnostics and vector control development account for a mere five percent combined. While that disparity reflects differences in development costs, it also underscores a yawning gap in funding for diagnostics.

Between 2007 and 2009, just two organizations—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)—provided half of the global malaria R&D funding and were responsible for 85 percent of the global increase in malaria funding, with the Gates Foundation leading the way. The latter provided 30 percent of global funding in 2009.

The Gates Foundation also provided more than three-quarters of funding for malaria product development partnerships (PDPs) in 2008-2009, allowing the latter to play a central role in product development. According to the report, PDPs managed around one quarter of all malaria R&D funding, nearly 40 percent of global grant funding and half of all drug and vaccine projects in the global malaria R&D pipeline.

The authors of the report say this concentration of funding, and funding priorities, is troubling. It’s not the first time someone has complained about the Seattle philanthropy having too much influence in this arena.

The solution, of course, is not for the Gates Foundation to reduce its support for select programs. It’s for the rest of the international community to increase and diversity funding for malaria interventions and research.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.