Researchers Receive Gates Foundation Grant to Control Mosquito Vectors of Malaria and Dengue

A Colorado State University professor and his team have received part of a $50.7 million Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to develop a new generation of environmentally sensitive pesticides and other measures to control the mosquito vectors of dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever – diseases that have emerged as major public health problems in tropical America – and malaria, a disease spread by mosquitoes that kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds.

"Our goal is to protect people from becoming infected in their homes by killing and/or repelling these virus-carrying insects," said Barry Beaty, a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor in the Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory. "The focus of the program is to develop approaches and tools to control vector feeding in and around homes. The most important vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue are transmitted principally in homes."

Colorado State will receive more than $5 million of the $50.7 million awarded to the Innovative Vector Control Consortium led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in Liverpool, England. The grant is part of a $258.3 million Gates Foundation grant program to fight malaria and dengue from multiple angles.

The consortium will develop safer, more effective and longer lasting insecticides, improved bed netting and other insecticide-treated materials, and new tools for managing and improving vector control programs.

Colorado State’s role will be to build on its long-term studies investigating the dengue virus and Aedes aegypti mosquito origins of epidemic dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever in the Americas. Collaborating on that project are the University Autonoma de Yucatan in Merida, Mexico and the University Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico.

"This extremely generous grant from the Gates Foundation reinforces the importance of infectious disease research and Colorado State’s collaborations with other parts of the world," said Tony Frank, senior vice president and provost. "One of our most successful alliances is in the area of biomedicine and infectious diseases. Our scientists continue to leave their mark in this very vital international research area while solving public health crises."

Colorado State has a long history and proven track record of safe and innovative research in infectious diseases, attracting significant federal funding to the Foothills Campus. The campus features the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Division of Vector Borne Infectious Diseases and the university’s Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory and its Bioenvironmental Research Building.

The National Institutes of Health last month awarded $4 million to the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to help expand the Bioenvironmental Research Building. In May, the NIH granted the university $42 million for a Rocky Mountain Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases research and training. Beaty heads that consortium.

Others from Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology working with Beaty on the mosquito project: William Black, a professor of medical entomology, Nancy DuTeau, an assistant professor of molecular environmental genetics, and Bradley Blitvich, research associate.

Scientific and health organizations have said more funding is needed to protect the hundreds of millions of people infected with and millions killed by vector-borne diseases each year.

"There are no vaccines for dengue and malaria.  In addition, the malaria parasite is becoming resistant to most drugs," Beaty said. "New drugs frequently are too expensive for people most at risk to purchase. The situation is dire."

About $3.2 billion is needed annually to reduce malaria deaths by half by 2010, but only a fraction is currently being spent, according to the latest data from The Malaria Research and Development Alliance, an international group of malaria organizations.

As part of the $258.3 million grant, the Gates Foundation also awarded $107.6 million to the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative to work with GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals and African investigators to complete testing and apply for licensure of the most advanced malaria vaccine candidate and $100 million to the Medicines for Malaria Venture to accelerate the development of promising new drugs.  The Gates Foundation is also funding research to develop new vaccines for dengue.