To celebrate World Mosquito Day on Friday 20th August, our CEO Professor James Logan joined other top scientists, researchers and epidemiologists from around the world to support the Malaria Consortium’s live #MosquitoChat on Twitter.
James took part in the online discussion throughout the day and provided his unique insight and expertise on current and future scientific breakthroughs and innovations for tackling vector-borne diseases, as well as his thoughts on how malaria can be eradicated globally.
In case you missed it, we’ve pulled together all of James’ responses to the questions on this extremely important topic:
Q. Tell us what you do and how it’s contributing to the battle against vector-borne diseases, like malaria?
“I am a Professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and CEO of Arctech Innovation, where I have spent the last 20 years working on novel technologies, such as repellents & attractants, to control the transmission of malaria, and other vector-borne diseases, from mosquitoes to humans. I am also developing non-invasive odour-based diagnostics, including electronic sensors and detection dogs, for the diagnosis of diseases including malaria, as well as other diseases such as COVID-19.”
Q. Why is research, development and innovation so important in tackling vector-borne diseases, rather than simply using existing tools?
“Mosquito resistance to existing insecticides is a growing concern. Also, transmission of malaria can happen at times and in places (outdoors) where people are not protected by bed nets, so new tools are needed to address this. Further, current tests don’t pick up early infection or low parasite load. We are developing new tech which targets outdoor biting mosquitoes & diagnostics that use odour biomarkers to detect early stage of infection, low parasite loads & asymptomatic cases.”
Q. Do you think that COVID-19 will have a positive or negative impact on developing new tools to fight vector-borne diseases?
“COVID-19 has unfortunately negatively impacted on vector control and vector control research as we have demonstrated that in some areas, resources have been diverted away from malaria to COVID-19. In many research organisations, researchers, at times, have been unable to get into the lab or to the field due to restrictions. However, there are lessons learnt from the rapid deployment of COVID-19 interventions that will hopefully translate into other diseases such as malaria and allow new tools to reach those who need them quicker.”
Q. What challenges do you think most urgently need to be addressed by research and development, what are the risks in not doing so?
“We need to find ways to detect and control the mosquitoes that aren’t killed by bed nets and insecticides. Malaria will continue to exist until we can wipe out all opportunities for mosquitoes to bite and transmit disease. To wipe out malaria, we also need to detect those individuals within communities, or at border crossing, who are responsible for continuing the transmission cycle. And that means, developing tools which can detect people without symptoms and at the early stage of infection. If we can’t do these things successfully, malaria will continue to be transmitted.”
Q. What are some of the most promising innovations in malaria control?
“Odour-based diagnostics could change the way we detect malaria infection and control its spread. Spatial repellents and attractants have exciting potential to be used in a push/pull strategy to control mosquitoes. GM mosquitoes, although some way off, could be very impactful. We also need to improve infrastructure by designing houses and the urban environment better to keep mosquitoes out and prevent mosquito breeding.”
Q. How can we ensure that malaria innovations reach the people who need them most?
“Interventions need to be accessible, including being affordable and logistically feasible. Industry has a vital role to play as bringing innovations to market requires significant funding and resources, which cannot be fulfilled by academia, local governments, or charities. We need greater collaboration between industry and governments, NGOs and academia. We also need to understand better the end-users, so that the right tools are developed in the right context to meet their needs and expectations.”
Q. How is data being used to create innovative malaria control techniques?
“The future is going to be more data driven as tech becomes cheaper and more accessible. Therefore, data is going to play a more important role in tackling malaria. Platforms such as the newly launched Global Vector Hub will facilitate and enable greater capacity to utilise data in a more meaningful and impactful way. This will also support predictive modelling to improve our preparedness and responsiveness to outbreaks.”
Q. How would a malaria vaccine change the fight against malaria?
“A malaria vaccine could certainly be a game-changer. There are exciting developments in this area which do look promising, and time will tell how effective any potential vaccine will be in the long run. However, even with an effective vaccine, we will still need other tools and innovations to be part of our “kit” to control the mosquitoes that spread malaria and the diagnostic tools to detect it better. I do very much believe we can end malaria, and other mosquito borne diseases, within our lifetime and I will continue to strive, with all my colleagues around the world, to achieve this.”
If you would like to learn more about some of the exciting vector control innovations being developed at Arctech Innovation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.