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Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has pledged $258.3m (£145m) to the fight against malaria, describing the disease which claims the lives of an estimated 2,000 African children each day as a "forgotten epidemic".

A trio of grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support research and development on a malaria vaccines, new drugs, and improved mosquito control methods.

"Millions of children have died from malaria because they were not protected by an insecticide-treated bed net, or did not receive effective treatment," said Gates. "If we expand malaria control programs, and invest what’s needed in R&D, we can stop this tragedy."

Drug resistance has rendered the cheapest and most widely-used anti malarial drugs useless in many parts of Africa, hence the need for more research into more effective malaria control tools. The Gates Foundation donation will support three projects over five years (as follows):

  • $107.6m to the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) to work with GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals and African investigators to complete testing and development of an anti-malaria vaccine candidate
  • $100m to the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) to work on anti-malaria drug research
  • $50.7m to the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC), led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, to fast-track development of improved insecticides and other mosquito control methods

Each recipient of the Gates Foundation's grant has developed a plan to make its anti-malaria tools accessible and affordable for developing countries. The Gates Foundation's cash pledges follows a new study by the Malaria R&D Alliance, an international coalition of malaria research groups, will reports that global funding for malaria R&D last year amounted to an inadequate $323m – less than 0.3 per cent of total health research spending worldwide. "For far too long, malaria has been a forgotten epidemic. It’s a disgrace that the world has allowed malaria deaths to double in the last 20 years, when so much more could be done to stop the disease," the Microsoft founder said. ®

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