By Dr. Dickson W. Lwetoijera and Dr. Brian B. Tarimo, Ifakara Health Institute

Every year on April 25, we celebrate World Malaria Day. It is a time when the world reflects on the achievements and shortfalls made in the fight against malaria. It is also the time when we assess if the strategies set forth are sufficient to meet the set goals towards the control and elimination of malaria.

This year’s celebration will be marked under the WHO theme “harness innovation to reduce the malaria disease burden and save lives”. This year’s theme greatly emphasizes the strong need for new innovative tools to complement existing strategies in the fight against malaria. 

The GeneConvene Virtual Institute will be holding a free webinar series on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), every Wednesday from April 20 to May 25 from 11:00AM to 12:30PM EDT. The webinars will offer an introduction in six parts to the CBD, addressing its history and political background, its oversight of synthetic biology and gene drives, and key points of interest for parties negotiating at the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP15) to be held in Kunming, China later this year.

The African Genetic Biocontrol Consortium will be holding a webinar on the regulation of genetically modified organisms on April 28, 2022, 4:00 pm EAT. The webinar offers a unique opportunity to learn more about genetic biocontrol and its regulation. It will explore the need for expanding regional research capacity and preparing for informed decision-making and effective governance of genetic biocontrol technologies in Africa.

In a recently published article, the World Health Organization recognized the need for the development of novel approaches and continued research to accelerate progress in the fight against malaria. Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease which is spread through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Since this discovery was made by Sir Ronald Ross in 1897, the fight against the disease has increasingly relied on controlling the insect vectors that transmit it. For decades after World War II, indoor residual spraying (IRS) was the only vector-control strategy used to protect people against mosquitoes. It was not until the 2000s that insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) were added to the malaria toolbox. Over the years, these two strategies have been deployed globally and remarkable gains have been made in the fight against malaria between 2000-2015.

Genetic biocontrol is an approach that relies on genetic modification to control populations of species that threaten public health and biodiversity. This is a growing field of research that brings together researchers to develop innovative technologies and systems designed to manage parasite-transmitting mosquitoes and invasive species that threaten local ecosystems.

The “New Biological Platforms for Affecting Phenotype Changes for Control” conference is a unique opportunity to learn more about genetic biocontrol and its applications, potential benefits, and the future course of research.