The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) launched a joint Grand Challenges program to call for international cooperation to develop innovative solutions for malaria vector control, focusing on outdoor vector control strategies, tools and products, with the goal of accelerating progress toward malaria eradication.
The program is part of the Grand Challenges China initiative co-established by NSFC and the BMGF in 2015 to fund research projects that contribute to safe, effective, affordable and scalable solutions to major global health and development challenges.
Malaria is a deadly yet preventable and treatable mosquito-borne disease affecting hundreds of millions of people annually. Despite progress made over the past two decades, malaria persists in over 85 low- and middle-income countries and communities. According to the 2021 World Malaria Report, there were an estimated 241 million malaria cases and 627,000 deaths globally in 2020, with Africa bearing about 95 percent of the disease burden.
Vector control is an essential component of malaria prevention, with the scale-up of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) or long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs), and expansion of indoor residual spraying (IRS) as key contributing factors. While the majority of malaria transmission occurs indoors, there are increasing concerns around the magnitude of outdoor transmission, where more investment in scientific and technological breakthroughs is much needed. With the joint call announced today, NSFC and the BMGF aim to promote international cooperation to identify and cultivate innovative strategies, techniques, products and tools that address specific challenges in outdoor malaria transmission.
China has abundant experience and expertise in eliminating malaria, and was declared malaria-free by the World Health Organization earlier this year. Through this funding program, NSFC encourages Chinese scientists to conduct research collaboratively with international organizations, and to contribute to the fight against malaria in countries that are still under its threat.
Malaria eradication is a top priority of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While continuing to expand the use of existing tools, the foundation is also committed to continuously developing and accelerating introduction of new tools and solutions that are essential to staying ahead of the malaria parasite and mosquito that transmits it and achieving the eradication goal.
As long-term, strategic partners, NSFC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-launched this new program to harness the power of global collaboration to catalyze innovations for the benefit of those who continue to be most threatened by this preventable and treatable disease.
The joint program will fund up to six proposals on malaria vector control. Eligible projects must involve international collaborations between investigators in China-based and international institutions. Proposals will be assessed upon the potential for practical, affordable and scalable application in malaria endemic countries and regions. Each proposal, if selected, will be funded up to RMB3,000,000.