From gene edit­ing to death traps, Seat­tle sci­en­tists in­no­vate in race to end malaria

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

When Kay­ode Ojo first fell sick with malaria as a young boy in Nige­ria, his grand­fa­ther shunned mod­ern medicine, ven­tur­ing into the bush to search for herbs and plants to treat the dis­ease. Hav­ing suc­cumbed to malaria a fur­ther 50 or more times in his life, the United States-based sci­en­tist, now in his for­ties, is de­ter­mined that his re­search - to de­velop a drug to stop trans­mis­sion from hu­mans back to mos­qui­toes - will help to erad­i­cate the deadly dis­ease.

“When peo­ple in Nige­ria, the world’s hard­est-hit coun­try, get malaria, many sim­ply shrug their shoul­ders and see it as nor­mal ... that needs to change,” Ojo told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion in a lab at the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton in Seat­tle. Ojo is one of thou­sands of sci­en­tists, en­gi­neers and en­trepreneurs striv­ing to de­velop in­no­va­tions to end malaria in a city dubbed the “Sil­i­con Val­ley of sav­ing lives”, which boasts more than 160 or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing on global health is­sues.

It is also home to the world’s rich­est cou­ple, Bill and Melinda Gates, whose global health and edu- cation char­ity has set the aim of erad­i­cat­ing the dis­ease by 2040. The world has made huge strides against malaria since 2000, with death rates plung­ing by 60 per­cent and at least six mil­lion lives saved glob­ally, says the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO). Yet ef­forts to end one of the world’s dead­li­est dis­eases - which killed an es­ti­mated 438,000 peo­ple last year - are un­der threat as mos­qui­toes be­come in­creas­ingly re­sis­tant to mea­sures such as in­sec­ti­cide-treated bed­nets and anti-malar­ial drugs. —Reuters

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