Last week the Gates Foundation announced a $10 million grant to the Institute for One World Health (IOWH) to increase the supply of semisynthetic artemisinin that can be used in the treatment of malaria. (Puget Sound Business Journal @ http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2010/07/05/daily22.html) The grant furthers the work of synthetic biologist Jay Keasling and advances the efforts of the Institute of One World Health and sanofi-aventis to begin commercializing production in about two years.
The grant is also a reminder of one of the great triumphs of imagination that has transformed global health. The IOWH was the brainchild of Victoria Hale who believed that a pharmaceutical firm could exist as a nonprofit and thereby address the needs and diseases of those so vulnerable and voiceless that there are no markets for solving them.
We tend to think of science and medicine as being advanced by breakthrough discoveries from experts in the field. But sometimes it is the breakthrough thinking of social entrepreneurs, like Victoria Hale, that really changes everything.