The Gates Foundation recently hosted a forum in Seattle with 300 scientists from around the world to release the latest information about its campaign to eradicate malaria. The lessons this community is learning and documenting during their fight to end malaria have profound takeaways for others who are waging similarly ambitious efforts to solve social problems at the scale they exist.
I wrote The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men (2010) because I thought there were so many lessons to be learned from that work that were directly applicable to Share Our Strength’s goal of ending childhood hunger. The key takeaways from the Gates Foundation Forum only reinforced that belief. There were three specific points worth noting:
- 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.
- Results were released of the largest clinical trial ever of a malaria vaccine – RTS,S (a competitor to Steve Hoffman, who I wrote about in Imaginations of Unreasonable Men) 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.”
- In 2007, Bill 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”. At the forum, Bill Gates 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.”