International funding boost for global malaria research

The Malaria Atlas Project is excited to announce it has been awarded a major new round of funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The group, currently based at Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, Western Australia, is now growing its network in malaria endemic countries to help develop skills in geospatial analytics, provide closer support to malaria programs and empower the next generation of African spatial modelling researchers for sustainable impact.

Through the support of the Foundation, MAP is launching a new Node in the East African region, housed within the Ifakara Health Institute, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Co-led by MAP Senior Research Fellows Dr Susan Rumisha (originally from Tanzania) and Dr. Punam Amratia (originally from Kenya), the MAP East Africa Node will operate in close alignment with the Perth Node, which is led by Kerry M Stokes Chair in Child Health at Curtin University and Telethon Kids Institute, Professor Peter Gething.

The two Nodes will operate as a single, albeit geographically dispersed research team working closely together to achieve the best outcomes for malaria control in Africa and globally. “Having an on-the-ground presence in Africa is an exciting new chapter for MAP, with substantial Gates Foundation investment going directly to the establishment of the East Africa Node. Extending the MAP team to Africa will allow us to contribute more directly to research in the region, partnering with colleagues at the Ifakara Health Institute and beyond to strengthen our own capacity as well as contribute to skill development in geospatial analytics across the continent.” Professor Gething said.

The East Africa Node will also work closely with national malaria programs in the region, allowing the team to integrate local knowledge, expertise and context into analysis to tailor approaches to countries’ priorities and demands.

“Our vision is to enhance the geospatial modelling skills of early to mid-career African researchers and prioritise African leadership in utilising advanced analytical tools to drive the agenda of malaria control, elimination and eradication in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Dr Susan Rumisha said.

Professor Gething said the latest tranche of funding – which builds upon many years of funding support from the foundation – would help MAP generate the annual geospatial malaria modelling and analytics that describe the global landscape of malaria transmission, infection, morbidity, mortality, and intervention coverage.

Other areas of focus will include research to better understand the drivers of malaria trends in Africa, including the recent slow-down in progress against the disease; work on evaluating future threats, including growing drug and insecticide resistance and climate change; and analysis of strategies to improve the efficiency and impact of current and future malaria control tools.

Professor Gething said the foundation continued to be a wonderful supporter of MAP and was instrumental to the impact the team had been able to achieve so far.

“Their vision of a malaria-free world is one we are passionately committed to, and we are incredibly excited to extend our mission over the next four years to bring the world closer to this goal,” he said.