The end of malaria is within reach

Health workers sitting outside with group of village residents.

PATH and the Zambia National Malaria Control Centre are leading an effort to rapidly eliminate the malaria parasite from large regions of the country. The approach is to treat everyone, including people who are carrying the disease but don’t know it. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

For thousands of years, people around the world have suffered from malaria. Although the illness has been largely eliminated from North America and Europe, it is still found in nearly 100 countries.

Portrait of Kent Campbell.

Author Dr. Kent Campbell directs PATH’s Malaria Center of Excellence. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

Each year, malaria affects more than 200 million people and kills about 600,000. Most deaths are among children under five, and children who survive may have lifelong mental disabilities.

Continue reading »

Friday Think: the antivenom potential of the opossum

An opossum perched on a tree branch.

Meet the Virginia opossum, a marsupial scientists are studying for its unique antivenom properties. Photo: Wikipedia/Cody Pope.

What do opossums, ground squirrels, and honey badgers have in common? Mammal or marsupial, they all share natural immunities to snake venom.

The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 94,000 people die each year as a result of snakebites, primarily in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. However, the ability of opossums to resist the fatal effects of snake venom has been informally known for many years. In the 1990s, researchers found that the antivenom “superpowers” observed in opossums stem from the presence of a lethal toxin neutralizing factor (LTNF) peptide, an active portion of a larger protein, occurring naturally in their blood. Now, preliminary findings indicate that Escherichia coli can be modified to produce this LTNF peptide, potentially facilitating the commercial pharmaceutical production of it as a universal antivenom. Continue reading »

Protecting Aisha from cervical cancer

Aisha Nanyombi sitting on a bench with her father Musa Maka.

Aisha Nanyombi (pictured with her father) was among the very first girls in Africa to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer. Photo: PATH/Will Boase.

This post is part of PATH’s Protecting Kids blog series for World Immunization Week. Read the whole series here.

The first time I saw Aisha, she was wearing her blue school uniform and wiping tears from her face. She’d just been vaccinated, but it wasn’t the shot that upset her. She was crying because her mother had died of the very disease she was being protected from—cervical cancer.

That was more than five years ago, but I was so haunted by how Aisha told her story in a BBC video that when I traveled to Uganda this past winter, my team tracked her down to see how she was. Continue reading »

4 things I learned from the global health innovators at PATH

Five people get water from a pump, electrochlorinator device in foreground.

In Zimbabwe, community members use an electrochlorinator device to treat water at a borehole, one of the many technologies PATH has helped to develop. Photo: PATH/Jesse Schubert.

Our guest contributor is Dr. Anurag Mairal, former global program leader of our Technology Solutions Program at PATH. In this post, Anurag shares some of the lessons he learned during his two years here.

“To perceive is to suffer,” famously said Aristotle.

As I reflect on my recently concluded role at PATH, the veritable powerhouse of innovation that gave us the vaccine vial monitor and first auto-disable syringes, I am struck by how much I learned in just two years there, lessons that have redefined what innovation means for me. Continue reading »

At PATH we’re often asked, “What is this?”

“What is this and what does it do?” We get this a lot at PATH. Take the diagnostic devices pictured below.

Two self-heating NINA diagnostic devices.

What’s so innovative about something that looks like a canister of hot cocoa or chicken soup? Actually, plenty. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

We develop some pretty out-there technologies at PATH, and these prototypes, developed in our lab are no exception. (Admittedly, we used a filter to enhance the photo.)

But then you notice the wires and the components, and it’s apparent there’s a purpose to the design. Have you guessed what it is? Continue reading »

Innovating to address malnutrition’s triple burden

Girls eating rice from a plate.

In contrast to many other health-related issues, malnutrition is 100 percent preventable. Photo: PATH/Satvir Malhotra.

Following is an excerpt of an article by Dr. David Fleming, vice president of Public Health Impact at PATH, illustrating how the private sector and global health sector can develop the innovations needed to address global malnutrition. This post originally appeared on the Global Food For Thought blog.

The world faces a triple burden of malnutrition. Acute and chronic undernutrition contribute to the deaths of some 3 million children each year. More than 2 billion people suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which compromise immune systems and physical and cognitive development. And now obesity is contributing to a host of health problems, from diabetes to heart disease. Continue reading »

Jonas Salk through the eyes of his assistant

Kathleen Murray and Dr. Salk in 1994.

Kathleen Murray worked with Dr. Salk from 1989 until his death in 1995. In 2015, Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine will be introduced in 126 countries—the largest vaccine rollout in history. Photo: Kathleen Murray.

Today, on the 60th anniversary of Dr. Jonas Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine being declared “safe, effective and potent,” we profile Kathleen Murray, Dr. Salk’s assistant at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The vaccine continues to make history today as a critical tool to achieve global polio eradication.

Q: Tell us about your connection to Dr. Salk.

A: I had been at the Salk Institute for about one year when Dr. Salk asked to see me. Because his assistant of 45 years was retiring, he was looking for someone to manage his office. He began our first meeting by saying, “To determine whether we would be a good match, let’s get together like this from time to time and get to know each other.” However, at the end of that first conversation he stood up and said, “Well I’m comfortable—if you are—that we can work well together.” And with that, I became assistant to one of the twentieth century’s greatest heroes. Continue reading »

Friday Think: this “leechbook” recipe may battle MRSA infections

Two pages from "Bald's Leechbook."

The 1,000-year-old Bald’s Leechbook contains a recipe that may be used as a potential agent against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Photo: British Library, United Kingdom.

When researchers and academics at the University of Nottingham peeked inside the leather-bound cover of Bald’s Leechbook, they found some useful recipes with a few unusual ingredients.

  • Mouse cells: the run-of-the-mill variety.
  • Oxgall: bile from a cow’s stomach.
  • Alliums: garlic, plus either a leek or onion.
  • One brass vessel.

Oh, and lest we forget, wine from a vineyard that has existed since the ninth century.

It’s not what you’d expect from a recipe, but then again, 1,000-year-old tomes don’t get uncovered every day. And this particular recipe had some surprising benefits: it killed over 90 percent of a bacteria known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Continue reading »

Unsung heroes in neighborhoods around the world

Pharmacist standing near open window with a customer's hands holding medication.

Pharmacists and druggists are often the first and sometimes only point of contact with the health care system for many people—particularly in low- and lower middle-income countries. Photo: PATH/Felix Masi.

Quotes from people who use pharmacies.

Portrait of Jane Hutchings.

Author Jane Hutchings is director of Reproductive Health Programs at PATH. Photo: PATH.

When we think of health workers, we often envision physicians or nurses in clinics and hospitals, or community health workers who provide primary health care services to their neighbors. And while these providers, so intrinsic to our traditional view of health care, play essential roles, the private-sector pharmacist and druggist are very often the first and sometimes only point of contact with the health care system for many people—particularly in low- and lower middle-income countries (LMIC).

Male health worker standing outside of the pharmacy window at a hospital.

Pharmacists have enormous reach into communities, but they are regularly excluded from public health strategies. Photo: PATH/Eric Becker.

The third annual World Health Worker Week provides us an opportunity to stand back, recognize, support, and raise awareness of the important role health workers play everywhere.

And yet, in an overlooked sector, pharmacists and druggists may be the least recognized providers of all, even though people rely on them every day.

  • Consumers value the accessibility, convenience, and potential for cost savings and, in some cases, the anonymity of pharmacies and drug shops.
  • People appreciate that needed medicines often are in stock and waiting times are short.
  • In many cases, commercial pharmacists and druggists already are administering key health services and distributing products to improve the health of women, children, and families—such as contraceptives for family planning or oral rehydration solution to prevent child deaths from diarrhea.
A person wearing a helmet talks to a woman behind a counter.

In some countries, youth are far more likely to visit a pharmacy for services than they are to visit a clinic. Photo: PATH/Jolene Beitz.

Pharmacists and their staff, or drug shop workers, have enormous reach into communities, but they are regularly excluded from public health strategies.

Public health systems and programs will be stronger and more communities will thrive if we recognize the value of pharmacists and druggists and bolster their ability to meet the health care needs of the people they serve.

Repeatedly, research has found that properly trained and supported pharmacists and druggists with an expanded scope of practice can provide quality services including:

  • Health education.
  • Diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, malaria, and diarrhea.
  • Referral for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
Two men talk to a woman standing behind a counter.

Some people do not go to clinics because the fee is high and they are located far from home. Photo: PATH/Ngo Thi Than Thuy.

The role pharmacists and druggists can play in the management of noncommunicable diseases in lower middle-income countries will continue to be substantial. Their dedication is crucial to the well-being, success, and stability of individuals, families, communities, and nations.

As we work toward universal health care and undertake efforts to strengthen the health workforce worldwide, this group of providers is too important to forget. Including them in policy dialogue or advocacy for human resources for health—and strengthening their capacity—will help us achieve stronger health systems that can be sustained by communities.

Guest contributor Jane Hutchings is the director of our Reproductive Health Program at PATH.

What we mean when we say “innovation”

Steve Davis gesturing and speaking with colleagues.

Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH, shares his insight on how we view innovation. PATH/Fatou Kande-Senghor.

Innovation that matters has been our mantra for nearly 40 years

There are innovations, and then there are innovations that matter. In global health, bright ideas and eureka moments are important for propelling us forward, but they won’t truly make a difference until they reach the people who need them and start transforming their lives. Some of these game-changers are as specific as a new drug or vaccine formulation with the power to save hundreds of thousands of babies, while others involve redesigning complex systems and rethinking the decisions we make each day to solve age-old problems.

Two women giving a little boy rehydration fluids from a green cup.

Finding fast treatment for diarrheal diseases. Photo: PATH/Sara Watson.

Since PATH’s founding nearly 40 years ago, we have advanced evidence-based approaches and tools to solve the world’s most difficult health problems, setting our sights well beyond new gadgets and gizmos to delivering solutions with staying power.

Disrupting the cycle of poor health is at the core of PATH’s work as we seek to improve the lives of women and children in poor countries. We know that health innovations can drive massive improvements in health worldwide. We work across five platforms—vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations—to advance hundreds of technological and social service interventions in our pipeline. To take these innovations to scale, we work with partners in the private sector, funders, and governments to deliver measurable results and achieve impact.

Kenyan man hammering red-hot forged steel.

Will the most crucial innovations in the next 15 years be forged of steel, built of silicon chips, coded from zeros and ones, or planted in the ground? Photo: Flickr/Eric Hersman.

We’re passionate about big ideas at all stages of development, from research and development to delivering solutions to millions of people in the world’s most vulnerable communities—and we’re especially focused on the complex “middle” of the value chain where innovations tend to stall and die. PATH’s brand of innovation means sticking with good ideas until the end, making sure the mechanisms and support are in place to bring them through research, development, and introduction and to scale them up to reach as many people as possible. It also means adapting to geopolitical and technological evolutions, and working across borders and sectors to turn great ideas into transformational changes.

For example, PATH worked with our partners in China for more than a decade to bring a much-needed vaccine against Japanese encephalitis (JE) to communities across Asia and the Western Pacific. China had safely used the vaccine to protect millions of its children against the debilitating disease, and we saw its potential to dramatically change the face of JE in other countries. We used an innovative systems approach to make it happen, including strengthening disease surveillance in countries at risk, negotiating an affordable public-sector price, and then providing technical expertise to private-sector partners to achieve international regulatory approval that will make the vaccine broadly accessible and sustainable.

How do you define innovation in global health? The Journey of Innovation: learn more.

This post is part of a multi-part series, Mapping the Journey, which explores how PATH turns ideas into solutions that bring equity, dignity, and health to women, children, and families worldwide. This article originally appeared on the Guardian and was written by Steve Davis, president and CEO at PATH.

Other posts in this series