The fight against malaria has seen impressive accomplishments in the last two decades. It has helped avert more than 7 million deaths and 1.5 billion cases of the disease. Nevertheless, progress has stalled in recent years and malaria remains a public health threat, particularly in the African region, which accounted for over 90% of malaria cases and deaths in 2021, according to the latest World Malaria Report.

Emerging challenges such as the spread of insecticide and antimalarial drug resistance have demonstrated the need for new approaches to control the disease. One of the novel interventions being considered focuses on targeting the mosquitoes responsible for malaria transmission through the use of genetic modification. A recently published article in the journal Nature looks at the history, evolution and current status of research to develop genetically modified mosquitoes to control malaria.

Mosquito larvae under a microscope. Photograph: Target Malaria

An interview with Kelly Willis, Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives at Malaria No More

Ever since its inception in 2006, Malaria No More (MNM) has been working to mobilize the political commitment, funding, and innovation required to end malaria within our generation. Kelly Willis is the Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives at MNM, responsible for the oversight and growth of the organization’s high impact programs and partnerships around the world. She has more than 20 years of experience working in infectious disease and global health. In this interview, Willis discusses the impact of climate change on malaria, how Malaria No More is innovating to support the fight against the disease and the role of the Forecasting Healthy Futures consortium.

By Jamie Perera, Composer & Sound Artist

Target Malaria is a not-for-profit research consortium working to develop an innovative genetic technology to reduce malaria transmission. In 2018, the Target Malaria team at Imperial College London published a landmark paper in Nature Biotechnology which demonstrated how gene drive mosquitoes could successfully suppress a population of wild-type malaria mosquitoes. Last year, the consortium partnered with London-based sound artist and composer, Jamie Perera, to transform data from the gene drive cage trials described in the paper into sound. The resulting piece, called “Swarm, was showcased at this year’s Great Exhibition Road Festival in London. Jamie Perera tells us more about the inspiration and work that went into creating this piece in the blog below.

More than 200 participants took part last week in the 43rd edition of the Ifakara Health Institute’s (IHI) MasterClass series on Gene Drives for Malaria Elimination. The session was hosted by Dr. Fredros Okumu, Dr. Lina Finda (IHI) and Dr. Nana Aba Williams from the Malaria Eradication Scientific Alliance (MESA). Experts from different institutions including the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Imperial College London, the Pan African Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA), the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and many more, gathered to share their technical knowledge and experience.

Image: MESA

Despite international environmental agreements and conservation efforts worldwide, we are facing the sixth great extinction, with up to 1 million species currently at risk. Invasive Alien Species (IAS)  –  species whose introduction and spread outside their natural past or present distribution threatens biological diversity – are one of the biggest causes of biodiversity loss and species extinctions. They have been partially or fully responsible for at least 46% of all known bird extinctions and 86% of all recorded extinctions on islands.

Fairy Tern in Palmyra Atoll. Photograph: Andrew Wright for Island Conservation