From the perspective of a wealthy country, malaria is a problem that is solved. It’s like smallpox. We ask, Who gets it? Who cares? Isn’t it better to invest in diabetes?
In truth, malaria is more infectious than ever, endemic to 106 nations, threatening half the world’s population and stalling economic development and prosperity.
That’s part of the reason why Timothy A. Springer, PhD, an investigator in the Program in Cellular and Molecular (PCMM) Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Immune Disease Institute (IDI), took on Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria. Another is that he likes solving problems in immunology – and has made his name discovering molecules that both promote and fight infections, in part by understanding their structures.
Personalized medicine, harnessing genomics to improve patient care, is a great idea on paper. But investigators have long struggled to find a smooth route from the bench – where patients’ DNA samples are sequenced – to the bedside, where a doctor can use a genomics report to diagnose illness, prescribe treatments and offer means of prevention.
Looking for innovations, Children’s Hospital Boston decided to use the incentive of competition, launching a contest called the CLARITY Challenge. The winner will be the company or group that can best translate the science of genomics into tools and methods that integrate into and inform everyday care.
What if blind eyes could see? What does that mean?
That’s the question neuroscientist Pawan Sinha and his team at MIT has begun to answer in a uniquely humanitarian and scientific endeavor.
Project Prakash (named for the Sanskrit word for “light”) intended, at first, to cure blind children in India. It’s a noble effort, given that India has the world’s highest population of blind people, less than half of whom survive to their third birthday and less than one percent of whom are employable.
Sinha’s team screened 20,000 blind Indian children and treated 700 of them for correctable problems such as cataracts. As Sinha recounted at last month’s One Mind for Research forum, these 700 children now can see.