A multi-million-dollar grant from Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates has propelled a team of British scientists to the front line of the global fight against malaria. Mr Gates, the world's richest man, has pledged the largest single donation to the quest to eradicate malaria, a disease that kills up to 2.7 million people a year. About 75 per cent of victims are African children.
The billionaire paid tribute to the British scientific research community and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, which will receive more than $66 million for pioneering research into mosquito control.
Mr Gates's global malaria grant of almost $US260 million ($347 million) is shared by the Liverpool team, the Malaria Vaccine Initiative, which is supporting vaccine research in Britain with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, and the Medicines for Malaria Venture, based in Geneva.
Scientists believe that the grant could lead to a vaccine in as little as six years.
Mr Gates said institutions such as the Liverpool school and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which has also received money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, deserved support as major contributors to the battle against diseases.
In 1902, Ronald Ross, a Liverpool lecturer, became the first British winner of a Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering that malaria was transmitted through mosquitoes.
"Millions of children have died from malaria because they were not protected by an insecticide-treated bed net, or did not receive effective treatment," Mr Gates said.
"If we expand malaria control programs, and invest what is needed in research and development, we can stop this tragedy."
According to a report from a group of organisations, the Malaria R&D Alliance, published yesterday, a fully funded malaria control effort -- which could cut malaria deaths in half by 2010, would cost $US3.2billion annually.
However, current spending, a significant amount of which is provided by Mr Gates, makes up only 10 per cent of this figure.
Janet Hemingway, the director of the Liverpool school, said the funding would be vital for pursuing such projects, which remained the key to controlling malaria. She said that longer-lasting insecticides could improve treated bed nets. Alister Craig, a malaria expert at Liverpool, said the funding would help to build up a "powerhouse of resources", reports Australian. I.L.