As a malaria professional you are supposed to keep track of what is happening in our field. That's nothing new. As scholars, researchers, policy makers, doctors, students, etc. we read about new developments, we read scientific articles, and follow the news. And in doing so we are familiar with who is doing what, follows what approach, and is seeking for new solutions to end our common enemy. Again, that is nothing new. But allow us to challenge you...
Below a very brief summary of what appeared in the news over last few weeks:
1) Sanaria, the biotech company developing the live attenuated sporozoite vaccine, was running a crowdfunding campaign to develop the 'sporobot'. A robot that should be able to dissect the salivary glands out of a mosquito in as short a period as 1 second. They needed $ 250,000 but raised only 18% of that amount. Very sad indeed. Steve Hoffman, the CEO of the company tells us in the video online "we are gonna take this vaccine forward and eliminate malaria". That's one.
2) Then there was the campaign called 'Malaria Mission', which managed to raise 75% of the $ 20,000 they needed to work towards a device that can be inserted under the skin and give off ivermectin to the blood so that blood-feeding mosquitoes get killed. That's two.
3) This week the world was told about Agenor Mafro-Neto's 'cow cologne', a human scent that can be applied on cows. Basically to turn the appetite of anthropophilic (man-loving) mosquitoes towards animals as dead-end hosts for falciparum malaria. Gates awarded $ 100,000 to this idea that now will be developed. That's three.
4) And over the last few days the press has exploded over the work from Andrea Crisanti's group that developed a line of mosquitoes that produces primarily male offspring. Fancy biotech published in Nature Communications, and the headlines say "A great day for mankind. Malaria could be soon a thing of the past", or "Genetically modified mosquitoes a 'quantum leap' in tackling malaria. That's four.
Our list could be much longer. Virtually every week we receive new reports, read articles, see press releases, and so on, that tell us that malaria will soon be a thing of the past. Sensation-seeking journalists ever more think up titles for articles that simply promise what won't be there for a long time. And it is likely that the general public swallows it all, not knowing the details and facts of what is happening in the Malaria World.
But there is another question that really bothers us: Who is keeping track of it all? Who is capable of deciding which one of the four above approaches is really worth pursueing?
The millions upon millions that have become available for malaria research since the start of this millennium have led to a vast array of new ideas, but is there anybody out there that knows them all? And if not, what does that mean?
MalariaWorld is seeking nominations for individuals of which you think that they have a comprehensive overview of what is all happening in our field. Is there a person like that? Please comment on this blog and let us have your frank opinion (and suggested name(s)). We are very curious!