Grants totalling $59.1 million (€38.2 million) have been awarded to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) for research aimed at finding new and more effective ways of preventing and treating malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

The bulk of the funding comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), which is contributing $46.4 million overall to a variety of programmes, and the main focus is on malaria. According to the LSHTM, the School’s Malaria Centre is “one of the most active malaria research groupings worldwide”.

The LSHTM also co-ordinates the Gates Malaria Partnership, set up in 2001 with a $40 million grant from the BMGF to support malaria research and capacity development in Africa. The Partnership, whose research has led to more than 300 publications in peer-reviewed journals, formally comes to an end in December 2008. However, new grants from the Gates Foundation to the LSHTM and other organisations such as the Wellcome Trust will allow ongoing initiatives to continue, the School notes.

The largest grant announced by the LSHTM, for $39.8 million running to October 2012, will go to the ACT Consortium, which includes nearly 50 academic institutions in Africa, Asia, Europe and the US. The Consortium will conduct a co-ordinated research programme to determine how best to optimise the delivery and cost-effectiveness of combination drug treatment for malaria in Africa and Asia, across a range of epidemiological and healthcare settings.

The programme will encompass work on improving access to antimalarials, better targeting and diagnosis of the disease, drug side-effects and detecting counterfeit medicines. A consortium of academic institutions, including Dangwe West Research Centre in Ghana, the International Health Research Development Centre in Tanzania, Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the National Institute of Medical Research at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Cape Town, will undertake the research, with the LSHTM acting as co-ordinator.

Seasonal intermittent treatment

With support from a separate BMFG grant of $2.99 million, GMP director Professor Brian Greenwood will lead a research project in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali looking at whether seasonal intermittent treatment of malaria in children who sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN) is as effective as it was found to be in early trials with children who were generally not using an ITN.

The LSHTM is also a partner in a large-scale project to implement intermittent preventive treatment for paediatric malaria in Senegal. This programme is led by the University of Dakar in Senegal, which is funded by the Gates Foundation. The LSHTM is providing epidemiological, statistical and other support through a grant of $986,000 from the University of Dakar.

In addition, the School is receiving grants totalling $7.67 million from the Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium, which is supported by the BMGF and co-ordinated by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

This funding is for the following activities:

- A multicentre clinical trial based in India and other countries in South East Asia, which will compare the safety and efficacy of two new antimalarial drug combinations during pregnancy

- A strategy aimed at reducing the burden of malaria during pregnancy in India by assessing the efficacy of insecticide-treated nets, intermittent preventive treatment (IPTP), and intermittent screening and treatment

- A trial of seasonal IPTP use in West Africa

- Studies examining the determinants of pregnant women’s access to healthcare as well as the cost and affordability of scaling up prevention and treatment strategies for malaria under different epidemiological and economic conditions.

In the realm of tuberculosis, Ulrich Schaible, professor in immunology at the LSHTM, has been awarded a Gates Foundation grant of $3.6 million over two years to develop a reporter imaging system for testing the efficacy of TB therapies.

The LSHTM team will lead a research consortium including the Barts and the London NHS Trust, Imperial College London, the National Institute for Medical Research in London and the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH) in Heraklion, Crete. The aim is to develop a straightforward, affordable imaging system that will help to identify new, efficient drugs for TB – especially those acting against latent or persistent bacteria, which are found in 90% of people affected by tuberculosis.

The School is getting a further $5 million in funding from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, for research into the benefits and costs of a range of models for delivering integrated HIV and sexual/reproductive health services in Kenya and Swaziland. The researchers will look at the effects of these models on reducing HIV risk, associated stigma and unintended pregnancies.