There are many excellent researchers who would
make rapid progress in malarial "post-genomics" if substantial
new money became available. It would therefore be widely recognised
as a wonderfully enlightened action if you were to ensure that the National
Institutes of Health introduced a malaria post-genomics programme, with
a new budget of at least $300m, as a first step towards the prevention
and cure of this devastating disease.
Dear Mr President
has commendably focused not only on the urgent ways in which science
can help the nation, especially through the National Institutes of Health
and the Department of Homeland Security, but also in boosting the broader
and longer-term interests of the country by increasing the budgets of,
for example, the National Science Foundation, whose science constituencies
underpin critical sources of knowledge and skills. I am troubled by
the half-hearted approach adopted by your administration towards alternative
energy sources and climate research, but will leave those issues for
However, every President should leave a personal legacy that goes beyond
the national political and social goals of the moment. If that legacy
addresses one of the major issues facing the wider world, so much the
Malaria provides you with precisely that opportunity. It affects hundreds
of millions of people and kills well over one million every year. It
affects countries across South America, Africa and South East Asia.
The challenges are made all the more urgent by the development of multidrug
resistance by the parasite.
There have been some positive moves from philanthropists and charities
for the control of malaria and for the development of vaccines and drugs,
and some limited progress with private-public partnerships. But these
funds—two or three hundred million all told - are a drop in the
ocean. Furthermore, they do not seriously address the longer term need
to investigate the malaria parasite at a basic scientific level.
Some people will argue that we already have enough science, we simply
need to develop better drugs, or a vaccine, or have better controls
of the disease through prevention. History shows, however, that every
one of these alternative routes has its own chronic difficulties. Addressing
new opportunities in the basic science of the disease could, in the
long term, deliver more far-reaching solutions.
The journal Nature recently published the sequence of the malaria
parasite Plasmodium falciparum's genome, and other related fundamental
information critical in understanding the parasite. That's a key step
along the way, and provides a new platform on which to develop essential
insights into the many biomolecular and cellular pathways by which the
parasite survives and interacts with us, its indispensible hosts. New
techniques are beginning to be applied, such as high-throughput analyses
of the pattern of gene expression and of the interactions of proteins
at key phases of the parasite's lifecycle. The new availability of the
genome combined with these techniques will undoubtedly spur progress
significantly—if there are funds to permit it.
For the United States to provide significant help in this battle would
not simply represent an act of great good will. It would also be in
the nation's long-term strategic interests. The less that so many developing
countries have to battle with the illness and mortality of malaria and
the social burdens that they bring, the more they can focus on economic
and social development and provide new opportunities for US businesses
and other organisations.
There are many excellent researchers who would make rapid progress in
malarial "post-genomics" if substantial new money became available.
It would therefore be widely recognised as a wonderfully enlightened
action if you were to ensure that the National Institutes of Health
introduced a malaria post-genomics programme, with a new budget of at
least $300m, as a first step towards the prevention and cure of this