Moree to speak at Stonecipher Lecture about leading search for malaria vaccine

The fight to vaccinate children worldwide against malaria is in full swing, and the director of the effort, Melinda Moree, will explain how the fight’s outcome affects everyone when she visits Tennessee Tech University for this year's Harry and Joan Stonecipher Lecture on Science and Society.

Moree develops and directs the strategy for the Malaria Vaccine Initiative, an effort launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 1999. Her presentation, "The Quest for a Malaria Vaccine — Chances for Success and Why You Should Care,” will be at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 4, in Derryberry Auditorium.

“Vaccines are the most successful public health intervention and one is desperately needed for malaria,” said Moree. "Malaria is the number one cause of death for children under five in Africa.”

Moree says more than a million children die of malaria each year and hundreds of millions of people suffer from the disease. MVI has established partnerships with pharmaceutical and biotech companies, governments, and research institutions around the world to move malaria vaccines out of labs and into clinical trials quickly. MVI currently supports the development of 15 malaria vaccine candidates and has been instrumental in moving seven of them into a total of 13 clinical trials.

Controlling this pervasive disease in Africa, where malaria-carrying mosquitoes can breed in a muddy footprint, requires the simultaneous pursuit of better treatment and prevention, and a serious push to provide a vaccine that is accessible to the people who need it most.

Moree vows that MVI will do its part by working diligently and intelligently over the next several years to move scientists closer to what many consider the holy grail of vaccine science.

The Gates Foundation started MVI with a $50 million grant and recently gave another $100 million to further the search for a vaccine.

About $800 million is spent every year on the search for a vaccine against AIDS, which kills about three million people annually. Even with the Gates Foundation's support, the total amount spent yearly on a malaria vaccine is about $80 million. Some estimates put malaria's death toll close to that of AIDS, at about 2.5 million people per year.

"Even in Africa, they've become resigned to malaria," Moree said.

Moree, who holds a doctorate in medical microbiology, has both public and private sector experience in product development and technology transfer. Prior to directing MVI, she was manager of advanced research at EKOS Corp.

The Stonecipher Lecture, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Harry Stonecipher and his wife, Joan, to fund the appearance of leading scholars like Moree, who examine the interrelationship between science and contemporary society.

Stonecipher, a 1960 Tennessee Tech physics graduate, worked for major industrial firms including General Motors, General Electric, Sundstrand and McDonnell Douglas before becoming president and chief operating officer of The Boeing Co. The Stoneciphers also fund the annual Stonecipher Symposium on Technology, Communication and Culture.

For more information, contact TTU’s College of Arts and Sciences at 372-3119.

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