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New Australian-led malaria research powerhouse

Australia will take a leadership role in the Asia Pacific region in a new initiative to help our nearest neighbours get rid of the scourge of malaria, in a new NHMRC $2.5 million Centre for Research Excellence in Malaria Elimination based at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

Announced today (October 11, 2017) by the Federal Health Minister, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, the Centre will accelerate new drugs to treat malaria and train the next generation of experts in Australia and overseas.

The centre will bring together existing research groups across Australia and in Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere, which are already providing high-level advice to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Health Organisation, NIH and the Wellcome Trust.

The Director of the Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne Professor Sharon Lewin, said malaria affects more than 200 million people worldwide.

“This is a critical moment in research on malaria: nearly half the world’s population is at risk of infection, and more than 70 per cent of malaria deaths are of children aged under five.

“All the countries in our region have committed to eliminating malaria by 2030, and this centre will be developing the tools, tests and treatments we need to achieve this goal, with a focus on ideas that can be quickly tested where they are needed the most.”

University of Melbourne Professor Stephen Rogerson at the Doherty Institute – who will lead the centre and is one of 10 chief investigators – said priorities would include developing better tests and drugs, and understanding more about drug resistant parasites.

“A major challenge in malaria is that we don’t have good information about who has it, because the existing tests are cumbersome and expensive, so one priority is to develop simple, accurate tests that can be used in villages.”

“In South East Asia, our frontline antimalarial drugs are losing their effectiveness, with devastating consequences for local people, especially children under five, travellers, and armed forces personnel.”

“This centre will bring together many of Australia’s leading malaria researchers, as well as industry partners such as CSIRO, and train up a new generation of experts here and overseas in disease elimination, whose skills will be transferable to other challenges, like HIV, TB, Zika virus and influenza.”

Source: UoM

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