MALARIA: Johns Hopkins Gets US$ 100M To Launch Institute
An anonymous donor has given US$ 100 million to Johns Hopkins Univer-
sity's Bloomberg School of Public Health to establish an institute
dedicated to finding malaria vaccines and treatments, the university
The gift will fund the institute for a period of 10 years, building
from four lead researchers to a staff of 100 to 150 who will seek a
medical breakthrough. Speaking of a need for "interdisciplinary
critical and imaginative thinking," Bloomberg School Dean Alfred Som-
mer said the institute will bring together specialists from various
fields, many of whom have never studied malaria.
Johns Hopkins officials had approached the donor about financing new
classrooms and laboratories. "The response was, 'I know you need
space and buildings, but that's not going to make a real difference
in the world,'" Sommer said.
The funding will be supplemented by the US National Institutes of
Health, which Sommer said is "still the most important source of
funding" for such research (Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post, 7 May).
Emory University public health specialist William Foege said the
founding gift will give "credibility to researchers willing to get
involved in this sort of work." Sommer said that could lead to hun-
dreds of millions in additional grants for the new institute.
"It used to be that working on malaria was a very quick way to short-
circuit a career," Foege said. "Where were you going to get your
Sommer said he does not expect the institute to eradicate malaria in
10 years, but that if testing begins on a new vaccine by decade's
end, "it would be a giant step for mankind."
"But even if we don't have a new prototype vaccine in 10 years," he
added, "certainly we will have moved the goal posts enormously," he
said. "The science will be far advanced" (Michael Hill, Baltimore
Sun, 7 May).
Malaria infects 300 to 500 million people annually, killing more than
1 million per year. Many existing drugs are losing their effective-
ness as drug-resistant strains of the disease develop (Argetsinger,
Washington Post). Yet drug companies have little financial incentive
to develop new treatments for a disease that ravages mainly the de-
"The fact is nobody cares," said financial news executive Michael
Bloomberg, chair of the Johns Hopkins board of trustees. "That's too
harsh, but it is difficult to get people interested in the problems
of poor countries."
When speaking of the "great unmet human needs in the world," Sommer
said, "AIDS always comes up, but you can never forget malaria" (Hill,
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