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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Laureates  

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Centro de Investigação em Saúde de Manhiça, Ifakara Health Institute, de Tanzania, Malaria Research and Training Center y Kintampo Health Research Centre

Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 2008

Malaria, a disease caused by a parasite and transmitted by mosquitoes, represents a threat to almost 40% of the world´s population. The majority of cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where one child under 5 years of age dies every 30 seconds. As a result of the first World Malaria Day, held on 25th April 2008, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, announced the launching of new drive to reinforce the goal of eradicating the disease from the African continent by the end of 2010. Among the tools to achieve this goal, he emphasised the importance of training medical staff in affected countries and encouraging research.

Among others, the strategic goals of the four award-winning institutions include biomedical research, the training of local personnel, medical care and institutional backing as tools to put an end to the relation between disease and poverty, thus contributing to the development of national and international public health.

The Manhiça Health Research Centre

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The Manhiça Health Research Centre in Mozambique (CISM, Centro de Investigación en Salud de Manhiça) was created in 1996 by the Spanish doctor Pedro Alonso, who jointly runs the centre with his wife Clara Menéndez. The main fields of action of this institute are Tanzania and Mozambique, the research it carries out focussing on combating poverty-related diseases and on training human capital in low income countries to reduce morbidity and mortality in children and pregnant women. At Manhiça, Pedro Alonso has demonstrated that the malaria vaccine candidate product called RTSS/ASO2A protects a significant percentage of children against mild episodes of disease, new infections and severe forms of malaria for a period of at least six months. This clinical trial carried out in Mozambique is the largest to be conducted to date in Africa and receives funding from the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2006 Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, to which American investor and philanthropist Warren Buffet donated $30 billion worth of shares in 2006.

Ifakara Health Institute

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The Ifakara Health Research and Development Center (IHRDC) in Tanzania has been operating since 1956 as the first biomedical research centre in the field set up by the Swiss Tropical Institute, founded by Rudolf Geigy. The conditions in Ifakara, a rural settlement with a major incidence of tropical diseases, were decisive in the centre becoming permanent and it becoming involved in the national research and health systems. In 1990, the IHRDC became affiliated to the Tanzania National Institute for Medical Research, operating since 1997 as an independent, non-profit foundation. IHRDC’s significant achievements in recent years include the results of the intermittent preventative treatment in infants (IPTi) of malaria. These showed that the antimalarial drug SP administered during immunisation led to a reduction in clinical episodes of 60%, in severe anaemia of 50% and in hospitalizations of 30%. In addition, a consortium of researchers has been put together, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to assess these results in other countries such as Kenya, Mozambique, Gabon, Senegal, Ghana and Tanzania. The Ifakara Health Institute is currently directed by Dr Honorati Masanja.

Malaria Research and Training Center

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The Malaria Research and Training Center (MRTC), in Mali, was set up in 1989 as part of a collaborative effort between the staff of the Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacy and Odonto-Stomatology and the National Institutes of Health in the United States (NIH), the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Health Organization. Significant support was subsequently obtained from a number of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programmes, as well as from other charitable institutions. The MRTC now forms a unitary organization, in which the work is planned, directed and executed by Malian staff. The MRTC is involved in all aspects of research on malaria. All the work at the MRTC is aimed at developing and testing appropriate strategies for the eventual control of malaria and the reduction of the burden of disease in the people of Mali, the region, and Africa as a whole. The centre is directed by Dr. Ogobara Doumbo, as is the vaccine testing programme that the MRTC carries out together with the Malaria Vaccine Development Unit of the NIH Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases. Likewise, the MRTC leads the way in technologies which can detect the presence of resistant parasites from a single drop of blood collected and dried on filter paper, thus allowing malaria?s resistance to certain drugs to be combated.

Kintampo Health Research Center

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The Kintampo Health Research Center (KHRC) in Ghana was established as one of the three Ghana Health Service research centres in 1994 to provide African solutions to the continent’s health challenges. Since its inception, it has developed one of the most wide-ranging regional surveillance systems and currently the KHRC is testing the malaria vaccine called RTS,S in Ghana. This vaccine, created in 1987 and developed by GSK Biologicals, was shown to be effective in adults from the United States, Belgium and Kenya, as well as children from Mozambique and Gambia. The KHRC joined in the development of the RTS,S vaccine in 2006 with trials in children between 5 and 7 months of age, which will enable establishing the safety range of this vaccine between 5 months and 17 years of age. The centre has been directed by the doctor Poku Asante.

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