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Current tools to combat malaria have yielded tremendous progress, but more remains to be done to meet the aspiration of eradication. It is critical to develop new tools that can be deployed rapidly to affected areas for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. We also need more efficacious and cost-effective interventions.

 

Overview

A new scientific paradigm has emerged – by changing the focus from disease control to elimination and eradication, the research priorities have shifted. Stopping transmission is an essential step towards eradicating the disease, and there is a need for a comprehensive approach, bringing cutting-edge science to bear on the problem.

Harvard University has the facilities and resources across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Medical School, the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and other affiliated institutions to research new treatments and technologies, and build on the existing knowledge base. In addition, the University can use its expertise in diverse areas such as health policy, decision science, and health systems engineering, to partner effectively with others in the public and private sector to translate knowledge into action.

Defeating Malaria has a number of priority areas of focus within science and its translation:

  • Changing the research paradigm from discoveries for disease control to discoveries for eradication
  • Leveraging basic science for the development of novel diagnostics, vaccines, and other treatments
  • Enabling translation of knowledge to policymakers, practitioners and the public
  • Supporting the core research objectives of the malaria community
  • Partnering with public and private sector groups to accelerate bringing new products for malaria prevention and treatment to market
Overview

Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs)

RDTs present their own set of challenges – low sensitivity for detecting P. vivax, weak screening tools to detect very low density parasitemia in the field, and risks of stock-outs to name but a few of these technical and management gaps.

 

Featured Research

Faculty from across the University conduct research in a range of fields related to malaria control and eradication. Researchers focus not only on developing new tools that can be deployed rapidly for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, but also on understanding the societal context in which endemic areas operate and on applying rigorous business approaches to technology distribution and adoption.

Faculty Spotlight:

In order to control and eliminate malaria, a deeper understanding of how and where the disease spreads is crucial. Data on transmission has historically been hard to find. Professor Caroline Buckee, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health uses a range of modeling techniques to understand the relationship between the evolution of pathogens and the epidemiological patterns of infection and disease among human populations. Buckee was honored as a 2013 Global Thinker by Foreign Policy for her use of mobile phone data to study human movement, enabling public health workers to target the sources of malaria outbreaks and potentially prevent future ones.

From a health systems perspective, Rifat Atun, Professor of Global Health Systems and Director of the Global Health Systems Cluster at the Department of Global Health and Population, is interested in advancing and integrating conceptual and practical approaches to the complex problems of health systems. In the context of malaria eradication, Professor Atun’s research and expertise contribute to a deeper understanding of the process of managing the transition from programmatic control of malaria to an integrated malaria eradication approach within health systems.

Featured Research

Professors Caroline Buckee (left) and Rifat Atun (right) are among numerous faculty across the university applying their expertise to addressing the complex challenges malaria presents.

 

Student Travel Fellowship

In order to gain a truly multidimensional understanding of disease, Harvard is dedicated to integrating biomedical, epidemiological, social, behavioral, environmental, and policy research in pursuing solutions to some of the most profound health problems currently facing humankind.

To support this innovative research, Defeating Malaria launched a Student Travel Fellowship to support masters and doctoral students conducting field research in malaria. In 2015, two students, whose work exemplifies the scientific interests and values of Defeating Malaria, were granted awards that enabled them to conduct valuable research into different aspects of the disease.

 
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Chantelle Boudreaux

Doctoral Student

Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
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Sarah McGough

Doctoral Student

Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
 

Malaria Workshops

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is committed to providing expertise, technology transfer, and training to scientists from around the world in order to better inform policies and practice toward global malaria control, surveillance, and elimination.

malERA Refresh

Boston, MA

Led by Dr. Regina Rabinovich, ExxonMobil Malaria Scholar in Residence at Harvard University, the Malaria Eradication Scientific Alliance (MESA) is initiating a ‘refresh’ of the 2011 findings of the Malaria Eradication Research Agenda (malERA). MESA’s goal is to update the multi-disciplinary malERA agenda to enable the global malaria community, public health advocates, and global health leaders to accelerate action toward malaria elimination and eradication. Six expert panels have been established, each chaired by a leading expert in the field. The Basic Science and Enabling Technologies Panel is chaired by Dyann Wirth, Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Infectious Diseases Chair, Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and co-chaired by Elizabeth Winzeler, Professor at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, and Dr. Lee Hall, Chief of Parasitology and International Programs Branch, Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Panelists are responsible for examining current hypotheses and identifying new priority research areas to accelerate progress. Their recommendations, based on a convening meeting held at Harvard University in 2015, will be published in PloS Medicine in 2016 with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

SNP Barcode Workshop in Boston, MA

The annual workshop brought together 20 laboratory scientists from 13 countries.

Malaria Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) Barcode Workshop

Boston, MA

Hosted by the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the annual Malaria Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) Barcode Workshop focuses on practical applications of the Broad’s SNP barcode approach for P. falciparum and P. vivax in laboratory and field settings. During the weeklong workshop held at the Broad Institute in July 2016, the 20 laboratory scientists from 13 countries engaged in theoretical, wet lab, and computational analysis of SNP applications of the approach, detailed troubleshooting and analysis, and adaptation to unique lab settings. As part of the hands-on training experience, scientists had an opportunity to genotype a limited number of parasite samples from their own laboratories and work with Harvard-Broad experts to interpret the data findings.

 

Genomics Training in Lusaka, Zambia

Laboratory and classroom-based training at the National Malaria Control Centre.

Genomic Approaches Toward Malaria Control, Surveillance, and Elimination

Lusaka, Zambia

In January 2013, Harvard University co-organized a 4-day workshop on Genomic Approaches Toward Malaria Control, Surveillance, and Elimination at the National Malaria Control Centre in Lusaka, Zambia. Taught by a range of experts from Harvard University, the Broad Institute, the Zambian Ministry of HealthMACEPA/PATH, and other field-based research organizations, the workshop allowed participants to gain knowledge of key principles and approaches in malaria epidemiology and transmission, and to learn about the role of genomics and genomic tools to assess changes in malaria transmission. Didactic and hands-on laboratory training provided participants with new skills and knowledge about genomic techniques for improved malaria surveillance.

 
2010 Malaria Workshop, Dakar, Senegal

In collaboration with the Broad InstituteCheikh Anta Diop University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Harvard Malaria Initiative, and Harvard Initiative for Global Health, the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health convened a triennial, regional advanced genomics and bioinformatics workshop from January 18-22, 2010 in Dakar, Senegal.

 

Plasmodium falciparum – Phenotypes to Genotypes

Dakar, Senegal

In collaboration with the Broad Institute, Cheikh Anta Diop University, The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Malaria Initiative, and Harvard Initiative for Global Health, the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, convened a triennial, regional advanced genomics and bioinformatics workshop from January 18-22, 2010 in Dakar, Senegal.

The Plasmodium falciparum – Phenotypes to Genotypes didactic and practical training workshop provided academic mentorship, practical training, and professional development to malaria research scientists from Senegal and neighboring West African countries.