The chief of malaria for the World Health Organization has complained that the growing dominance of malaria research by the Bill & Melinda...
The chief of malaria for the World Health Organization has complained that the growing dominance of malaria research by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation risks stifling a diversity of views among scientists and wiping out the world health agency’s policymaking function.
In a memorandum late last year, the malaria chief, Dr. Arata Kochi, complained to his boss, Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of WHO, that the foundation’s money, while crucial, could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences.”
Many of the world’s leading malaria scientists are now “locked up in a ‘cartel’ with their own research funding being linked to those of others within the group,” Kochi wrote. Because “each has a vested interest to safeguard the work of the others,” he wrote, getting independent reviews of research proposals “is becoming increasingly difficult.”
Also, he argued, the foundation’s determination to have its favored research used to guide the health organization’s recommendations “could have implicitly dangerous consequences.”
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Dr. Tadataka Yamada, executive director of global health at the Gates Foundation, disagreed with Kochi’s conclusions, saying the foundation did not second-guess or “hold captive” scientists or research partnerships that it backs. “We encourage a lot of external review,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Chan, the director-general, said the WHO has cordial relations with the foundation and the agency’s policies are set by committees, which include others beside Gates-financed scientists.
The Gates Foundation has poured about $1.2 billion into malaria research since 2000.
The World Health Organization is a U.N. agency that gives advice on policies, evaluates treatments — especially for poor countries — maintains a network of laboratories and sends teams to fight outbreaks of diseases.
It finances little research; for diseases of the poor, the Gates Foundation is the world’s biggest donor.