The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has named Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine as the lead institution of an International Center of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMR). The $7.9M seven-year grant will accelerate the control of malaria and help eliminate it worldwide. The prestigious center is one of ten new malaria research centers around the world. James Kazura, MD, Professor of International Health and Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, will serve as the principal investigator of a project titled “Research to Control and Eliminate Malaria in SE Asia and SW Pacific.”
The NIAID awards will establish ICEMRs in regions where malaria is endemic, including parts of Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands and Latin America. The objective of the “Research to Control and Eliminate Malaria in SE Asia and SW Pacific” project is to advance knowledge of how national and regional programs to control and eliminate malaria in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands affect the disease’s epidemiology, transmission by the essential mosquito vectors, pathogenesis and morbidity. Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands represent a wide spectrum of malaria transmission intensity and disease, as all four types of human malaria exist in mosquitoes and humans who are exposed to these insect vectors that transmit the parasite. The ICEMR at Case Western Reserve University will integrate clinical and field approaches with laboratory-based immunologic, molecular and genomic methods and concepts. Like the other ICEMRs, the research will investigate the transmission of malaria by mosquitoes and the pathogenesis of the disease it causes in infected humans. Research findings will be compiled and shared among centers in order to advance the development of long-term sustainable tools for eliminating and eradicating malaria globally through the development of safer, more effective drugs and ultimately, the creation of a vaccine to stop the transmission of the disease.
“Case Western Reserve University is honored to be among the elite group of ICEMRs who share a common vision of reducing the health burden of malaria in the world. Our participation and leadership is a demonstration of our substantive work which is poised to make a marked difference in malaria control and global eradication of the disease,” says Dr. Kazura, director of the university’s Center for Global Health and Diseases. “This is an unprecedented project and opportunity; the ICEMR program offers incredible promise by its emphasis on a targeted research approach that involves the use of best practices and similar research protocols across various malaria endemic areas. Ultimately, this globally coordinated program represents a concerted effort to first limit the health burden of malaria and second, to irrevocably stop its transmission in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Pacific nations where the disease continues to have its major impact on infants, children, and pregnant women.”
Malaria, one of the world’s “big three” diseases, along with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, has been eliminated from many parts of the globe, but 40 percent of the world’s population still live in areas where they are at risk for contracting the disease. Infection by malaria-causing parasites results in approximately 240 million cases around the globe annually, and causes more than 850,000 deaths each year.