UCSF Convenes Groundbreaking Commission to Inform Path Towards Malaria Eradication

By Laura Newman

a GIF showing areas of the world that are eliminating malaria over time: 1900, 1970, 1990, 2016, 2025, and total elimination projected for 2040
The Malaria Elimination Initiative at UCSF created the map above to show the potential for malaria elimination worldwide by 2040.

A newly launched Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication will convene experts from around the world to inform efforts to eradicate malaria – an age-old disease that still claims nearly half a million lives each year.

The Commission is a joint endeavor between The Lancet, a leading publisher of medical journals based in London, and the Global Health Group at UC San Francisco, and will complement the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group on Malaria Eradication (SAGme). The Commission’s work commences during a pivotal time for the malaria community, with endemic countries, donors and partners preparing to assemble in Dakar and London later this month to revitalize action and investment to end the disease.

Developing a Roadmap to Eradication

With financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication will develop a detailed analysis of why and how malaria eradication should be pursued, including the costs and potential return on investment. Through mapping and modeling, the Commission will determine key factors that will positively or negatively affect malaria transmission. In addition to proposing solutions for the areas with the greatest disease burden, experts will explore the potential impact of future innovations and describe the operational requirements for achieving global eradication, including those related to health systems, leadership, and management.

The Commission’s work will be featured in a report, to be published by the London publishing group’s flagship journal, also called The Lancet, in 2019.

Sir Richard Feachem, BSc, PhD, Director of UCSF's Global Health Group. 

Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, said, “In 2010, UCSF led The Lancet’s series on malaria elimination that helped mobilize the malaria community around the goal of ending transmission of the disease. Now, they are well-positioned to take this work to the next level, informing the steps that must be taken to eradicate the disease once and for all.”

UCSF will convene 24 of the world’s leading scientists, policymakers and implementation experts, and the Commission will be chaired by Sir Richard Feachem, DSc(Med), PhD, who directs UCSF’s Global Health Group. Commissioners have expertise in global development, disease eradication, drug resistance, economics, spatial epidemiology, evolutionary biology, and more. The UCSF Global Health Group’s first initiative, the Malaria Elimination Initiative, will serve as the Secretariat for the Commission.

A Key Moment in the Malaria Fight

2018 is a critical year for the malaria community. Over the last 20 years, unprecedented progress in driving down cases and shrinking the malaria map has fueled optimism that the fight against malaria can be won. Now, 100 countries are malaria-free and 35 additional countries are working to achieve this goal by 2030. But a recent uptick in malaria cases in the Americas and Africa and a concurrent decrease in available funding, as reported in the World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report last year, have been causes for global concern.

Over the next two weeks, world leaders, health ministers, researchers, business leaders and other stakeholders will gather at the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria conference in Dakar, April 15-20, and at the Malaria Summit during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London on April 18. During these high-level meetings, malaria-endemic countries, donors, and partners will address these global threats and renew their political, financial, and scientific commitments to defeating the disease – action that will be critical to accelerating efforts, addressing key challenges, and helping maintain focus on the ultimate goal of eradication.

“Now more than ever, we need guidance for how malaria can be eradicated.” said Feachem. “It is the only way to end the burden of the disease, and to ensure that the progress made over the last two decades is not lost. We believe that eradicating malaria is possible, and the Commission’s work will help how this can be accomplished.”

About MEI: The Malaria Elimination Initiative (MEI) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Global Health Group believes a malaria-free world is possible within a generation. As a forward-thinking partner to malaria-eliminating countries and regions, the MEI generates evidence, develops new tools and approaches, documents and disseminates elimination experiences, and builds consensus to shrink the malaria map. With support from the MEI’s highly skilled team, countries around the world are actively working to eliminate malaria. For more information about our impact, visit Shrinking the Malaria Map. Visit the Lancet Commission on Malaria Eradication.

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, transitional and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland, and other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area.