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The Hill Examines Push To Get More U.S. Funding For Malaria Medicines

The Hill examines Medicines for Malaria Venture’s (MMV) efforts to get more U.S. funding for its work. According to the newspaper, the group is “asking USAID and Congress to redirect more money beginning next year to drug research and development from a pot of funds used to cover the range of efforts to treat and prevent malaria, such as providing mosquito nets.”

“One of the bigger challenges – a perpetual challenge – is that we do research and development, and it is easier to tell people of [things] which are here and now than things that are in the future,” said MMV’s CEO Chris Hentschel, who recently visited Capitol Hill to raise awareness for the group’s work. “We are trying to make that which is still aspirational a reality.”

The newspaper writes that “[t]he largest donor to MMV by far is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, at 67.3 percent of donations since 2000, followed by the United Kingdom Department of International Development with 11.8 percent. USAID is next with 3.4 percent, but Hentschel said he would like to see that go up close to the U.K. level.”

The late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) “wrote to retired Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer, the coordinator of the President’s Malaria Initiative, at the end of July, requesting an increase of USAID funding” for MMV’s work, The Hill writes. “Sen. Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), who was appointed to Kennedy’s seat … renewed the call to Ziemer in mid-November to increase USAID funding. … Kirk also pointed out that the report of the Senate State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill for 2010 encourages USAID to increase its investment in public-private partnerships involved in the research, development, access and delivery of anti-malarial medication.” The article also looks at “one of the venture’s success stories: Coartem Dispersible, a cherry-flavored pediatric anti-malarial medicine” (Tiron, 12/1).

Scientists Say They Can Signficantly Increase Artemisinin Yields

In related news, crop scientists say they have found a way to triple the yield of the plant that produces the malaria drug artemisinin, Reuters reports. “Results from this year’s harvested trials indicate that we’ve increased the concentration of artemisinin to in excess of 2.2 percent – almost three times the industry average of 0.8 percent,” Steven Bentley, a researcher at Britain’s National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), said. “We’ve made progress year on year, we know where we’re going and we seem to able to notch it up with some consistency.”

“Experts say around 6,500 hectares of land … was devoted to wormwood crops in 2009, producing 30 tonnes of artemisinin a year – enough for 60 million treatments. The need in 2010 is estimated at 260 million treatments, requiring 130 tonnes of artemisinin or 28,000 hectares of the crop,” the news service writes. NIAB’s results, which have been independently confirmed, could help produce the required amount of the drug. The article also looks at the issues involved with the growing conditions needed for artemisinin, and NIAB’s interest in working with drug companies (Kelland, 12/2).

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