ASTMH Blog

World Malaria Day Perspectives: Jessica Taaffe, Global Health and Science Consultant

April 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative, ASTMH President Alan J. Magill, ASTMH Councilor Laurence Slutsker of the CDC, Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center and Kent Kester of Sanofi Pasteur.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Jessica Taaffe (@JessicaTaaffe), PhD, Global Health and Science Consultant

Why are you drawn to malaria research?

I was (and still am) drawn to malaria research because of its global impact. Although we don’t have to really worry about it in the United States, it’s responsible for so much disease in many parts of the world, and a huge killer of young children, who are the most susceptible to it.

I did my graduate thesis work on HIV for several years, specifically focusing on immunology in monkey models. There’s a lot of work being done in this area for HIV, but less so for malaria, and I saw a niche for me in malaria research. I knew I wanted to continue working on a disease with huge global impact, and one that I felt that my research efforts and experise could really make a difference and address a gap in knowledge. There’s still so much to learn about what provides immunological protection from malaria infection and disease, or how the immune resonse contributes to the latter, and malaria monkey models are a great way to start exploring these areas.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

I think setting priorities in the fight against malaria and balancing both programatic and reserach and development efforts is the biggest challenge. In a funding climate that is becoming limited for both global health and science, choosing which programs or research to fund is become increasingly important, and we must be very careful in these decisions, choosing interventions WE KNOW will work and the most promising technology and research to address problems and challenges in the field. The balance is imperative - I would argue for more money for R&D, but I wouldn’t want to take away from measures like bed net distribution, that are also important tools in our fight against malaria.

Where do you see the most promise?

I see the most long-term promise in investing in R&D for malaria, especially basic science. Both malaria infection and its causative agent are incredibly complex and there is still so much to learn about them. A better understanding of both natural or induced correlates of immunologic protection against malaria will lead to better malaria vaccines, and more research on the parasite itself could lead to novel drugs to treat malaria infection. In the near and long-term future, we will need these biomedical tools as we continue our fight against this global disease.

 

Subscribe

No CommentsTags: World Malaria Day 2014

World Malaria Day Perspectives: Kent Kester, Associate Vice President , Sanofi Pasteur

April 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative, ASTMH Councilor Laurence Slutsker of the CDC, Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center, Science Consultant Jessica Taaffe.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Kent Kester, MD, FASTMH, Associate Vice President, Clinical and Translational Sciences, Sanofi Pastuer

Why are you drawn to malaria research?

I started working in malaria research coincident with my Infectious Disease fellowship training at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Fellows had the great opportunity to pursue research projects at the nearby Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), where tropical disease research was and continues to play a prominent role. At the time, I had the good fortune to work in a department composed of highly motivated people who truly wanted to make a difference in tropical health by way of developing an effective vaccine against falciparum malaria. To me, this embodied much of the "classical" aspects of infectious disease research, focusing on a disease for which a vaccine is not yet available yet which has a huge morbidity and mortality impact in the developing world, coupled with modern scientific approaches to vaccinology. Owing to this alignment, coupled with my later assignment at the WRAIR as a full-time malaria vaccine developer, I was privileged to play a role in the clinical development of the current lead vaccine intended to protect against falciparum malaria, RTS,S—a vaccine that is now the subject of large-scale field trials in Africa. While I’m currently working in the private sector, my focus remains the development of vaccines—products that by definition are focused on the improvement of the broader public health status of populations.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

There are so many needs related to malaria, whether associated with the broad areas of control, elimination, and eradication, or more finely focused on local approaches to disease prevention (e.g., via the use of bednets). In the end, the financial challenges are substantial, something that contributed negatively in the prior malaria eradication campaigns.

Where do you see the most promise?

I’m encouraged by the continued visibility of malaria as a real public health problem associated with many developing countries. Certainly, the advocacy and funding provided by the BMGF has played a major role in keeping malaria in the news. Hopefully, their continuing efforts, joined with those of others (e.g., government agencies, other nonprofit organizations, and industry) will continue to push forward on multiple fronts to effectively deal with this perennial scourge. The work is incredibly important.

 

Subscribe

No CommentsTags: World Malaria Day 2014

World Malaria Day Perspectives: Captain Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center

April 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative, ASTMH Councilor Laurence Slutsker of the CDC, Kent Kester of Sanofi Pasteur and Science Consultant Jessica Taaffe.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Judith E. Epstein, MD, CAPT MC USN, Clinical Director, Malaria Vaccine Development Program at the Naval Medical Research Center

Why are you drawn to malaria research?

I first became interested in working on malaria nearly 30 years ago while taking a first year course in parasitology in medical school. I recall being fascinated by the view of malaria parasites under the microscope. The study of infectious diseases that primarily impact the developing world seemed to me like a great entryway into international medicine. I was amazed to learn that this disease, which is not part of our everyday experience in the United States, has such a devastasting impact worldwide. According to the most recent estimates, found on the World Health Organization website, there were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 and an estimated 627,000 deaths. Most deaths occur among children living in Africa with about one child dying every minute from malaria. Meanwhile, malaria continues to pose a significant threat to our warfighters deployed in malaria endemic area. The chance to work on a vaccine which might help to stem the tide of this disease has been the driving force for me. What started out as a simple medical school interest has become a passion.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

I think that the biggest challenge lies mobilizing a successful malaria vaccine. As aptly expressed in an editorial in The Lancet back in April 2010 (Volume 375, Issue 9724, Page 1407), "What is still needed is the only tool that has ever truly conquered any infectious disease: an effective and affordable vaccine."

Where do you see the most promise?

I think that the greatest promise lies in the results recently obtained with the testing of the live, attenuated whole parasite vaccine, Sanaria’s PfSPZ Vaccine. Results of a clinical trial that took place at the Vaccine Research Center, NIAID (detailed by Seder et al in Science Sept 20th 341: 1359-65) in collaboration with the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research demonstrated efficacy of 100% against controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) in subjects who received the highest dose of the vaccine. We at NMRC remain closely involved in the testing and development of this vaccine. Such a vaccine, which could prevent both infection and disease, would be optimal for our troops deployed abroad as well as the millions of people living under the daily threat of this disease.

 

Subscribe

No CommentsTags: World Malaria Day 2014

World Malaria Day Perspectives: ASTMH President Alan J. Magill

April 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative, ASTMH Councilor Laurence Slutsker of the CDC, Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center, Kent Kester of Sanofi Pasteur and Science Consultant Jessica Taaffe.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Alan J. Magill, MD, FASTMH, ASTMH President

Why are you drawn to malaria research?

Every aspect of malaria, its history, biology, pathophysiology, ecology, and clinical management is endlessly fascinating for me. I became interested in malaria early in life as part of a greater interest in parasitology. Once I understood that malaria is a completely preventable, treatable, and eradicable disease, I could not understand why it caused so much suffering globally. I am committed to end this inequality.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

The biggest biologic challenge in malaria is the emergence of drug and insecticide resistance. Loss of pyrethroids or artemisinin will have a severely negative effect on future efforts to maintain the gains of the past decade. The biggest resource challenge is maintain the significant levels of investment from the major donor countries to the Global Fund and the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). This will require political will and commitment at all levels and in all countries.

Where do you see the most promise?

Many African countries have made significant progress in the past decade and have seen what life can be like without children dying from malaria. They don’t want to go back in time. I see great promise in a new generation of African scientists, physicians, political leaders, and community leaders who will lead in the elimination of malaria from Africa. There is also a robust and very promising pipeline of new drug, vaccine, and vector interventions. Many of these new products will come to market in the next 5-10 years. I also sense that many now see malaria as a complex ecosystem of human – parasite – mosquito interactions and that viewing malaria this way opens up many new and innovative approaches to control and eventual eradication of the parasite.

Subscribe

No CommentsTags: World Malaria Day 2014

World Malaria Day Perspectives: Laurence Slutsker, Director for Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria for the CDC Center for Global Health

April 14, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: Admiral Tim Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative, ASTMH President Alan J. Magill,
 Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center, Kent Kester of Sanofi Pasteur and Science Consultant Jessica Taaffe.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Laurence Slutsker, MD, MPH, Director for Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria for the CDC Center for Global Health (CGH)

Why are you drawn to malaria research?

I started in malaria 27 years ago when I joined CDC. My first trip to Eastern Africa was one I’ll never forget. I walked into a District Hospital ward in western Kenya and was overwhelmed with the site of tiny children, packed 4-5 to a bed, all suffering from malaria. It has been compelling to be part of the effort to address this public health menace, and gratifying to see the progress over the last decade.

While much remains to be done, in many places there has been significant improvement by combining advances in research (ITNs, diagnostics, treatment, prevention in pregnancy) with effective program scale up. Research has been and must continue to be a cornerstone of continued progress. We will not succeed If we rely on the tools and strategies we have now to get to where we need to be in the future.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

I don’t think there is one single challenge –we need to keep our eyes on several balls at the same time. Technically our research must find new tools and strategies to deal with parasite resistance to drugs – particularly artemisinin resistance – the spread of which represents a true threat to global health security. Addressing this challenge will require not only new drugs, but research in novel ways to use the drugs we currently have to drive down transmission. Similarly, rising to the challenge of insecticide resistance requires new compounds and new delivery strategies.

Operationally, we need to achieve much greater progress in program scale up in the huge and complex countries with the highest malaria burden. Also key is to explore new and better ways to get the strategic information we need in real time through improved surveillance and response to allow programs to be more efficient and more effective. From a leadership and political perspective, we need to maintain momentum and focus on investing in malaria program and research. There is ample evidence from history to show that when our attention and focus wanes, malaria roars back with a vengeance.

Where do you see the most promise?

In a word – commitment, manifest in many places and at many levels. At the global level, the commitment of partners to develop a budgeted action plan that provides a framework for the contribution and investment of all sectors and partners is critical. At the national level, the commitment of endemic country leadership to a vision of progressive malaria control leading ultimately to elimination is a sea change. It raises the stakes and sets the highest bar possible, but also allows us to think about what was once unthinkable – an end game for malaria. That aspirational goal cannot be achieved without continued commitment to and support for research, balanced with substantial investments in program scale up. There are promising developments in strategies and tools for vector control, drugs, vaccines and their delivery, diagnostics, surveillance and response, and community level engagement approaches. With continued commitment at all these levels, these promises can be realized and implemented to defeat malaria.

Subscribe

No CommentsTags: World Malaria Day 2014

World Malaria Day Perspectives: Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer of the President's Malaria Initiative

April 11, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In advance of World Malaria Malaria Day, ASTMH asked some of our malaria expert members and colleagues to reflect on the global fight against the disease and to peer into their crystal balls and let us know what might be on the horizon. Other interviews in this series include: ASTMH President Alan J. Magill, ASTMH Councilor Laurence Slutsker of the CDC, Judith E. Epstein of the Naval Medical Research Center, Kent Kester of Sanofi Pasteur and Science Consultant Jessica Taaffe.

See all interviews in our World Malaria Day 2014 series here.

Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, President’s Malaria Initiative

What about malaria has drawn you to this work?

Most American’s have been raised unaware of the devastating impact that malaria has on individuals and communities around the world.

I was raised in Asia, and was infected by malaria as a child. A good friend of mine, lost his young daughter to the disease. When I was offered the role as the U.S. Global Malaria coordinator to lead the President’s Malaria Initiative, I felt privileged and compelled to do what I could to help achieve the goal of saving lives and removing the significant burden that malaria has on the health systems and communities - particularly in Africa.

As we approach World Malaria Day, what is the biggest challenge with this disease?

First of all, we need to recognize the significant progress that has been made in the fight against malaria over the last decade. It’s really quite remarkable. That said, there is a risk of becoming victims of our own success. As the drop in all cause child mortality and overall burden of malaria declines the investments and priorities are at risk of being shifted away to other competing needs. In simple terms, we can’t take our eye off the ball, because, as we have seen with history where we have well-documented cases of malaria having been close to elimination and yet it came roaring back! And real challenges exist, if not addressed, the threats of resistance and sub-standard anti-malaria drugs for example will undermine our efforts.

Where do you see the most promise?

I’m encouraged by the priority that the political leaders in Africa and Asia have placed on the elimination of malaria from their countries through the African Leaders Malaria Alliance and the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance. The global malaria community has come together under the Roll Back Malaria Partnership in a collaborative way to leverage and maximize our collective efforts. I’m encouraged by the contributions of the research community to preserve and improve our existing interventions and develop new anti-malaria drugs and hopefully, an effective, affordable vaccine in the future.

Subscribe

No CommentsTags: World Malaria Day 2014

ASTMH Peru Helps Extend Society’s Global Reach

April 09, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

The Society's Peruvian colleagues convened another successful ASTMH Peru Annual Conference in Lima this past February (see Spanish agenda and English agenda). Held for the fourth consecutive year, with increasing attendance each year, this year’s event attracted 388 attendees – mostly from Peru, a few from the United States and two from Brazil. 

ASTMH Peru is organized annually by the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6 (NAMRU-6). It provides those Peruvian investigators who had presentations and posters at the ASTMH Annual Meeting in the U.S. the opportunity to present their research to local colleagues in their native language. Funds raised at the Peruvian event are put towards a scholarship for local researchers to attend the ASTMH Annual Meeting. Since the initial ASTMH Peru, 6 Peruvian scientists have travelled to the U.S. on these scholarships.

Richard Oberhelman, MD, president of the Society’s Clinical Group, delivered the keynote presentation, focusing on international collaborative training grants.

The following sponsors supported this year’s event: Instituto Nacional de Salud, Peruvian Society of Infectious and Tropical Diseases (SPEIT), Instituto de Medicina Tropical “Alexander Von Humboldt” – Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (IMT AvH), the Instituto de Medicina Tropical “Daniel A. Carrión” - Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (IMT DAC) and the Peru Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Research Training Consortium. The event was partially funded by the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología del Perú, CONCYTEC. 

From the Field

Daniel G. Bausch, MD, MPH&TM, ASTMH councilor, Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans/U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6, Lima, Peru, provided the following personal reflection from the event:

“Another great meeting in Peru. One of the key facets is the opportunity for young scientists, who may not have the means to travel to the United States for the annual meeting, to directly participate in the presentation of their work and communicate directly with others in their field. We all know that those face-to-face meetings at the coffee break are equally as important as the formal presentations. I think that this is the wave of ASTMH’s future, representative of the Society’s desire to globalize its membership and message.” 

Subscribe

No CommentsTags: Activity & Partners

Appreciating ACME on World Health Day

April 06, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

The focus of this year's World Health Day (Monday, April 7) is vector-borne diseases, an area of tropical medicine that is near and dear to our Society members. Thanks to efforts by the American Committee of Medical Entomology (ACME), we have released a statement drawing attention to these important issues on World Health Day.

We also note that ACME members have contributed to the research and control of vector-borne diseases on a myriad of fronts, including:

  • Performed studies on mosquito behavior as it relates to contacts at the vector-host interface, as well as behavioral responses to insect repellants and insecticides
  • Studied the spatial and seasonal abundance of vectors, field infection rates, vector competence for pathogen transmission
  • Responded to outbreaks of vector-borne diseases around the globe
  • Studied the epidemiology and disease burden of vector-borne diseases in humans such as malaria, leishmaniasis, and tick-borne relapsing fever
  • Evaluated the use of Wolbachia-host interactions as a vector population suppression strategy

[Read more →]

No CommentsTags: Activity & Partners

New Members - February 2014

March 16, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

In February, the Society welcomed 50 news members. A list of their names and affiliations (when given) can be viewed here.

Subscribe

No CommentsTags: Activity & Partners

Member Q&A: Lynn Soong, MD, PhD, Professor, UTMB Departments of Microbiology/Immunology and Pathology

March 12, 2014 · By Jaclyn Schiff · No Comments

ASTMH members are the best and the brightest in their field. Our member interviews highlight our diverse and growing membership. To read other member profiles, click here.

Lynn Soong, MD, PhD, chair of ASTMH's Kinetoplastida Subcommittee on program committee, is a professor in the Departments of Microbiology/Immunology and Pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch. She is also the associate director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity among other leadership roles. Soong’s research focuses on New World cutaneous, mucosal and visceral leishmaniasis.

1) We’re grateful that you’ve been an ASTMH for almost 10 years. What are some of the factors that make you want to renew your membership each year?
The most important thing for me is to meet with others at Annual Meetings. This gives me the opportunities to make friends who are working on different areas (such as parasite-insect interactions or drug development), or are from endemic countries. I may know some of them through their publications, but chatting with them reduces the distances among us. Members on our Kinetoplastida sub-committee can have social events, chatting about new research directions or programs.

2) You presented on Leishmania vaccine research at the Annual Meeting in November. It was great to see a symposium devoted to the topic. For policy makers and others who might not have an extensive scientific background, what is important to know about this research?
At the 2013 Annual Meeting, we had two Leishmania vaccine-related symposiums running back-to-back in the same location. It was convenient for most audiences, as they would get big pictures regarding laboratory discovery/tests, field studies, and problems in distributing vaccines in disease control. Dr. Pradeep Das (India) raised an important question as to who should receive vaccines for visceral leishmaniasis control, if we ultimately made vaccines. Such symposium format and discussion are very helpful for policy makers, researchers, and care providers.

3) The symposia kicked off additional collaboration on Leishmania vaccines. Please discuss how this came about and the follow up that has occurred since.
After the symposia, about 20 scientists sit down in the same room, discussing common issues and future plans (see group photo). We all agreed that due to limited resources, the Leishmania vaccine community should work collectively to set up priorities. Dr. Greg Matlashewski (Canada) and Dr. Hira Nakhasi (FDA) had agreed to draft a “Leishmania Vaccine Initiative,” and others had revised it further via emails. We wish to share write paper with WHO-TDR for input and support, and to increase the awareness from policy makers and publics for the feasibility of developing anti-Leishmania vaccine(s).

4) What tips do you have for trop med researchers who would like to accomplish something similar and further their scientific collaborations?
Be persistent in what you are doing. Be active (and brave) in networking.

5) What can the Society do to promote interests in Leishmania?
Leishmania- and Trypanosoma-related presentations are relatively low in numbers at the Annual Meetings. Active promotion of abstract submission and meeting presentations will be helpful. This would be achieved partially via better organization of oral presentations for these parasite sections, and via Travel Awards. For example, offering Travel Awards for trainees (if both trainees and PI attend Annual Meetings) has been successfully used by other societies. Meanwhile, we have invited more members to serve on our sub-committee, so that we are ready for receiving more abstracts this year and then on.

6) Last question, so it’s a fun one. You get the opportunity to go back in time. You can either have a conversation with any scientist who has ever lived OR observe a moment of scientific history. What would you choose and why?
Major Walter Reed is on the top of my list. He was a physician scientist, whose work cofirmed that yellow fever is transmitted by a particular mosquito species. His work had greatly influenced biomedicine, epidemiology, and disease control strategies. He died in 1902 at age 51. What would be his new discoveries if he lived for another 30 years?

Subscribe

No CommentsTags: Member Q&A