Partners from IVCC, BASF, Bayer, Mitsui Chemicals, Sumitomo and Syngenta gather to launch the new ZERO by 40 programme
How would you fight a 20,000-year-old foe? According to recent research from the Institut Pasteur, this is how long humans have suffered from malaria. While malaria’s appearance predates the rise of agriculture, estimated as 5,000 years ago, today malaria particularly affects agricultural communities – and particularly the world’s smallholder farmers, which make up the majority in parts of Africa and Asia.
Each year an estimated 300 to 500 million clinical cases of malaria occur, making it one of the most common infectious diseases worldwide.
WHO estimates that more than 90% of the 1.5 to 2.0 million deaths attributed to malaria each year occur in African children.
The suffering and loss caused by this preventable vector-borne disease is unacceptable: Every two minutes a child in Africa dies from malaria. Half of the world’s population is at risk. The vectors of malaria – mosquitoes – have proven to be a mighty foe, capable of developing resistance to vector control agents including pyrethroid insecticides, used on longlasting treated bednets. At the same time, resistance to antimalarial drugs has been detected for two of the four species of malaria parasites (P. falciparum and P. vivax) that naturally affect human beings.
The urgency, magnitude and global reach of malaria require an unprecedented focus and a new commitment to its eradication.
“ZERO by 40” Targets Malaria Elimination
Following an inaugural meeting in London in April 2018, Bayer has joined forces with other leading research and development-centric crop protection producers BASF, Mitsui Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical Company and Syngenta. Collectively, these participating organizations signed the “ZERO by 40” declaration in April 2018 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, to help eradicate malaria by 2040.
The goal is ambitious, but equally so is this industry collaboration, which is coordinated by the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) and supported by ist funders, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The participating companies have pledged their ongoing support to the research, development and supply of innovative vector control interventions.
A 2019 Agenda from the World Economic Forum
In January, leaders from the agricultural companies, including Bayer, met with Bill Gates and IVCC at the World Economic Forum in Davos. As part of their efforts, the organizations have agreed to find better ways to share know-how and ideas in order to help solve some of the remaining challenges in malaria vector control.
The January meeting further discussed the challenges in innovating in the field of insecticide treated nets (LLNs) and indoor residual spraying (IRS). A new development called attractive targeted sugar baits (ATSBs), which are currently undergoing field trials in Africa, was also discussed. “If we can find better ways to work together, our innovations can help save millions of lives,” says Liam Condon, President of Crop Science and Member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG, following the Davos meeting.
Modellers from the Imperial College, London, illustrated the potential beneficial impact of layered vector control interventions on reducing the burden of malaria across sub- Saharan Africa to levels where the 2040 goal of malaria eradication could be reached. Dr. Nick Hamon, Chief Executive Officer of IVCC, comments, “The crop protection industry is a critical component in the development of existing and new classes of chemistry to reduce the burden of malaria. Their commitment to continue to innovate and advance this goal is both significant and valued.”
Hamon is particularly proud of the role of vector control in reducing malaria morbidity. “Millions of deaths have been averted since the start of this millennium, 78 percent of which have been through vector control efforts including the use of insecticide-treated bednets and indoor residual spraying.” However, renewed attention is needed, Hamon adds. “As the latest WHO data show, progress has stalled.”
|The “ZERO by 40” participants, from left: Liam Condon, Board of Management of Bayer AG and President of Crop Science; Dr. Hans-Ulrich Engel, Vice Chairman, BASF; Nick Hamon, CEO, IVCC; Erik Fyrwald, CEO, Syngenta; Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Kazunori Tani, Executive Advisor, Mitsui Chemicals; Ray Nishimoto, Representative Director & Senior Managing Executive Officer, President of Health and Crop Sciences Sector, Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd.; Frank Ning, Chairman, ChemChina|
The “ZERO by 40” Action Plan – a Priority List
- To provide a framework to determine the public health value of ‘next generation’ LLINs/IRS/ATSB.
- Develop a set of ‘next generation’ LLINs by testing combinations of active ingredients from multiple partners at a specialized testing site.
- Improve the efficiency of IRS by 25%.
- Develop the concept of a consortium to support the ATSB product development.
- Estimate the value of eradicating malaria by 2040.
- Minimize the risk of increased resistance by enacting an aligned IRM strategy.
- To trial cost-effective Integrated Vector Management (IVM) approaches within a chosen geography.
- Project an aligned “ZERO by 40” perspective publicly.
The Link between Malaria, Agriculture and Economy
The story of malarial illness is painful, and even deadly – and it is nothing new or unusual, depending on where you live in the world. Unfortunately, it most significantly affects communities that can least afford it, including rural agricultural communities. High temperatures and abundant water give mosquitoes ample opportunity to breed, and ultimately pick up and spread the malaria parasite. “Conditions conducive to productive agriculture are generally also conducive to high potential for malaria transmission. When malaria does occur, it can thus have a dramatic impact on rural livelihood as malaise from the disease prevents people from tending their crops – ultimately impacting family incomes and general well-being,” says Justin McBeath, Malaria Market Segment Manager with Environmental Science at Bayer.
US $295 Billion
Potential impact of eliminating malaria by 2040 on harvest values from 2018 to 2040.
3.8 Billion Work Days Gained
3-7 days per case, which could lead to US $295 billion in increased harvest value and productivity gains by 2040.
When smallholder farmers, and their families, are no longer affected by malaria, productivity and yields increase. A study co-authored by Dr. Nick Hamon estimates an improvement of US $295 billion on harvest values from 2018 to 2040 in Africa if malaria was eliminated. With agricultural yields, this leads to improvement in economic status, nutritional and overall health.
“In other words, the effect of malaria is not only immediate on lost working days and productivity. Loss of agricultural output has collateral impacts – including nutrition, the ability to receive education and maintain overall well-being,” says McBeath. Current estimates are that 30 percent of Africa’s total population have experienced chronic hunger and malnutrition.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 38 percent of children were left stunted due to chronic malnutrition. The impact on these children – the next generation of Africans – cannot be underestimated. According to WHO, the long-term effects of stunting include poor cognition and educational performance, low wages in adulthood, lost productivity and, when accompanied by excessive weight gain later in childhood, an increased risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases in adult life.
"Much progress has been made in the fight against
malaria since 2000 thanks to the global efforts
of the malaria community, including the public
sector, non-governmental organizations and private
companies. However, there are still 1.1 billion
people at high malaria risk in 91 endemic countries,
with 91 percent of deaths occurring in Africa,
and 70 percent of those are children under 5
years old… unbelievable, unacceptable but true.“
Dr. Jacqueline M. Applegate, President of Global Vegetable Seeds & Environmental Science at Bayer
Eliminating malaria means improving the lives of hundreds of millions of people now and in the future. Commenting on the “ZERO by 40” initiative at the 2018 London meeting, Trevor Mundel, President of Global Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “Innovative vector control is essential to the success of malaria control and elimination efforts. It’s proven key to saving millions of lives over the past 15 years.”
Credit: Gates Archive, Edward Thompson
The “ZERO by 40“ participants are highly committed to fight malaria by working hand in hand.
What has “ZERO by 40” achieved so far?
Will there ever be a world without malaria?
 Hamon, Nick and Derek W. Willis. “Potential Impact of Eliminating Malaria on the Income of Agricultural Households in Africa.” July 2018. Gates Open Research Journal.
 FAO. “How to Feed the World 2050, High-Level Expert Forum.” Rome. 12-13, 2009.