The Geisel Library at UC San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

An international research team led by a UC San Diego professor has received a three-year, $4.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve therapies for malaria eradication, the university announced Friday.

“The long-term goals are to accelerate the development of novel treatments and preventative medicines,” said Elizabeth Winzeler, pharmacology professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and the grant’s lead scientist, in a news release.

The group, which initially included the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Columbia University, GlaxoSmith Kline and Washington University, has systematically looked for proteins encoded by the parasite, primarily using in-vitro methods and whole genome sequencing, Winzeler explained.

Winzeler and her colleagues have focused their efforts on disease-causing parasites that infect mosquitoes, which then transmit the parasite to humans through their bite, UC San Diego said.

About half of the world’s population live in areas at risk of malaria transmission, according to UC San Diego. In 2015, according to the World Health Organization, more than 214 million clinical cases of malarial infection were reported. Out of 438,000 deaths that year, the vast majority were children in Africa.

In 2012, the Gates Foundation awarded Winzeler and her colleagues a four-year, $3.5 million grant to develop new anti-malarial compounds less likely to provoke resistance compared with existing drugs, UC San Diego said.

Winzeler said the past three years have been productive, as researchers have produced the most comprehensive study of malaria parasite drug resistance to date.

— City News Service

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