Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bringing the islands closer to the main…

…No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee…

That millions die each year in developing countries from diseases, cures for which are ignored by the busy minor-miracle workers of billion dollar pharmaceutical companies, gives lie to John Donne’s meditation on the interdependency of the human race and its awareness and concern for the morality of all its members.

And yet is it a deeper meditation of our nature to observe that corporations who concern themselves with expensive developments for clients, who could not possible make such work worthwhile in a monetary sense, have no future?
Is it the river’s fault that gravity does not lead it to some planes and favours others, resulting in fertile banks to contrast barren expanses?
Is it the river or the arid planes fault that they cannot kindle a dam and irrigate themselves?

Thankfully this pondering is interrupted by the Global Health Initiative.
The question was asked ‘What would the minor miracle workers of science be developing if the poorest in the world could afford treatment for the serious diseases that they suffer from?’ The prize for the most promising deliverable technologies is hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants principally from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with additional funds from the Wellcome Trust and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
After 32 months of work they have formulated 43 Grand Challenges to focus on examples of which include;
-Heat Stable Vaccines, vaccines are generally developed for populations with easy access to refrigeration – these are not appropriate for Africa.
-Single Dose Vaccines, most vaccines need boosters that are administered over weeks or months, these are highly unsuitable for families that have to travel long distance to the nearest clinic.
-Revolutionary methods to control certain Mosquito populations
-Encouraging the growth of more nutritious stable crops
-New HIV Vaccine strategies
-Technological innovation specific for diagnosis in the developing world


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