Mosquirix, the world's first malaria vaccine, has been approved by the European Medicine Agency. This drug is designed for use in young children, in an effort to reduce the incidence of this often fatal disease.
Bill Gates, the best-known mastermind behind technology giant Microsoft, contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the development of this potentially revolutionary vaccine.
Mosquirix, also called RTS,S/AS01, is manufactured for use in areas where malaria is running rampant. This includes tropical and sub-tropical regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, well outside European borders. The immunization is aimed at small children, as it is most effective in those subjects with developing immune systems.
The Plasmodium falciparum parasite, responsible for malaria, normally multiplies in the liver of affected persons before heading into the bloodstream, where it causes the most severe symptoms. Rates of malaria dropped by half in babies given the drug between the ages of five and 17 months. Those receiving the immunization at a younger age saw their rates of malaria drop by 27 percent in a study on the new drug.
"Because the studies showed that Mosquirix does not offer complete protection, and the protection it provides decreases in the longer term, it is important that established protective measures, for example insecticide-treated bed nets, continue to be used in addition to the vaccine," the European Medicines Agency reported.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation poured more than $200 million into research developing the new immunization.
The 59-year-old even played a massive, unexpected stunt on a crowd of assembled dignitaries to drive home his belief that a safe, effective vaccine needs to be developed and distributed to affected regions of the world. In 2009, Gates was delivering a TED talk on malaria to a large assembled crowd.
Then, "he cheekily opened a container and released some mosquitoes into the air, telling the audience of millionaires and billionaires that it shouldn't just be the poor who experience the disease," Kim Zetter wrote for Wired.
Since its inception in 2010, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $33.5 billion in grant payments. The organization, which employs 1,376 employees, boasts a total trust endowment of $42.9 billion.
In 2010, Gates and his foundation, together with billionaire Warren Buffet, initiated a drive to convince the ultra-wealthy population to provide greater donations to charity and philanthropic programs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) will soon undertake studies to determine how the new drug may best be used alongside other health measures to eliminate or reduce instances of malaria. After that, individual countries would also need to approve the vaccine before distribution to children. Two years later, the foundation headlined a United Nations event to eradicate polio around the world.
The Decade of Vaccines program from the foundation aims to prevent 264 million illnesses, 11 million deaths and 3.9 million disabilities by the year 2020.
Photo: DFID | Flickr