18 Apr

Glaxo, Novartis Join $4 Billion Gates-Led Push to Fight Malaria

GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Novartis AG will contribute research funds to an almost $4 billion global effort to combat malaria as drug-resistant strains of the disease threaten to undo years of progress.

The commitments are part of a wide-ranging initiative, led by a pledge of $1 billion from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to quell the insect-borne disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year.

Glaxo, the U.K.’s largest drugmaker, is investing an additional $250 million, while Switzerland’s Novartis will allocate more than $100 million, the companies said before a meeting Wednesday in London.

Urgency is rising as malaria cases grew significantly in 2016 for the first time in a decade, according to the World Health Organization. Emerging resistance to drugs and insecticides is making efforts to eliminate the disease more difficult, and some regions are experiencing a resurgence.

Certain variants of the lethal parasite called Plasmodium falciparum can evade artemisinin, the most potent medicine available.

These resistant strains have been detected in five Asian countries and risk taking hold in Africa, according to Novartis, which makes a version of the drug. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has said that it would be a “disaster” if a mutant form of the parasite moved beyond Southeast Asia to Africa, where most malaria deaths occur.

Novartis and the Medicines for Malaria Venture are pushing to develop an alternative to artemisinin and began testing a new anti-malaria pill in Africa last year.

Pilot projects for the first vaccine — developed by Glaxo and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative — are due to begin in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi later this year. The experimental vaccine has been in research and development for about four decades, and the projects will take five years to complete, according to Glaxo.

“Malaria is still killing so many children, and the challenge has always been out there to find something which could potentially eradicate it,” Luc Debruyne, Glaxo’s global vaccines president, said in an interview. The vaccine is “a very important first step.”

The broader battle will depend on advances in science and technology, including gene editing, Gates has said.

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24 Aug

Africa: Agriculture a Culprit in Global Warming, Says U.S. Research

Global Warming

New York — Agriculture has contributed nearly as much to climate change as deforestation by intensifying global warming, according to U.S. research that has quantified the amount of carbon taken from the soil by farming.

Some 133 billion tons of carbon have been removed from the top two meters of the earth’s soil over the last two centuries by agriculture at a rate that is increasing, said the study in PNAS, a journal published by the National Academy of Sciences.

Global warming is largely due to the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from such activities as burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees that otherwise would absorb greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

But this research showed the significance of agriculture as a contributing factor as well, said Jonathan Sanderman, a soil scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts and one of the authors of the research.

While soil absorbs carbon in organic matter from plants and trees as they decompose, agriculture has helped deplete that carbon accumulation in the ground, he said.

Widespread harvesting removes carbon from the soil as do tilling methods that can accelerate erosion and decomposition.

“It’s alarming how much carbon has been lost from the soil,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Small changes to the amount of carbon in the soil can have really big consequences for how much carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere.”

Sanderman said the research marked the first time the amount of carbon pulled out of the soil has been spatially quantified.

The 133 billion tons of carbon lost from soil compares to about 140 billion tons lost due to deforestation, he said, mostly since the mid-1800s and the Industrial Revolution.

But the findings show potential for the earth’s soil to mitigate global warming by absorbing more carbon through such practices as better land stewardship, more extensive ground cover to minimize erosion, better diversity of crop rotation and no-till farming, he said.

The world’s nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases generated by burning fossil fuels that are blamed by scientists for warming the planet.

President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark Paris accord in May, saying it would undermine the U.S. economy and weaken national sovereignty.

Supporters of the accord, including some leading U.S. business figures, said Trump’s move was a blow to international efforts to tackle global warming that would isolate the United States.

Source from allAfrica