Gates Foundation Sponsors Malaria Conference in Seattle

This week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will convene many of the world's top malaria experts in Seattle to discuss how to fight the disease, which kills more than a million people every year, the Seattle Times reports.

The three-day forum is the foundation's first major conference for top policy makers and technical experts in the field, and aims to create greater coordination and more funding for malaria eradication. The foundation has committed more than $1 billion to malaria vaccine initiatives, drug treatments, and better insecticides in recent years, but has tended to exert its influence behind the scenes, urging governments to spend more and working to raise awareness of a disease that few Americans will ever experience.

While malaria is among the biggest killers worldwide, it is considered a relatively treatable disease and can be prevented with insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor mosquito sprays; the right drugs can also cure infection in a few days.

Although global spending on malaria control has increased significantly in recent years, driven in part by the Gates Foundation, the conference is viewed as a way to reflect on what remains to be done. "This is not about just what the Gates Foundation is going to do," said Kent Campbell, director of PATH's Malaria Control and Evaluation Partnership in Africa, "but what the larger community could be doing."

Sandi Doughton. "World Comes to Seattle to Fight Malaria." Seattle Times 10/16/2007.