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Thursday, May 22, 2003

Malaria scientists at UW honored
2 are part of group studying treatment


Scientists at the University of Washington, along with researchers at Yale University and Bristol-Myers Squibb Corp., have been recognized for developing a promising new approach to treating malaria by an international organization dedicated to fighting the disease.

Dr. Wesley Van Voorhis, a medical researcher at the UW, and Dr. Michael Gelb, in the UW chemistry department, were among the group of scientists honored with a "Project of the Year Award" by the Medicines for Malaria Venture based in Geneva.

The group was recognized for using new genomics techniques to rapidly demonstrate promising anti-malarial activity in an enzyme (farnesyltransferase) now used to inhibit tumor growth in cancer patients. Though still in an experimental phase, the organization said progress has been rapid and could be tested in humans in a few years.

Malaria infects hundreds of millions of people, killing at least a million, every year. The non-profit Medicines for Malaria was created in 1999 to support development of effective and affordable anti-malarial drugs aimed at reducing the disease burden especially in poor countries.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 gave $25 million to the organization and has provided nearly half the project's funding.

Others supporting Medicines for Malaria include the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Health Organization, World Bank, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, the Wellcome Trust and the governments of Britain, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

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