$50m win for Australian technology targeting dengue and Zika

Two global charitable organisations have jointly awarded AUD$50 million (US$38m) to an Australian developed technology making major inroads in the global fight against dengue, Zika and chikungunya.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Wellcome Trust (WT) have awarded the funds to Monash University’s World Mosquito Program (WMP) over three years, bringing their total contribution to AUD$185 million (US$134m) since 2010.

Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Margaret Gardner AO offered her congratulations.

“The World Mosquito Program is a great example of the University’s cutting-edge research and innovation having real-world impact in communities which need it most," Professor Gardner said.

"It highlights Monash’s global footprint and capacity to support novel technologies from start-up to implementation."

WMP Director, Professor Scott O’Neill, said he was really grateful to the Bill & Melinda GatesFoundation and Wellcome Trust for backing the method.

“Thanks to this new funding, we’re on track to having a really major impact on these mosquito-borne diseases globally, and at large city scale, as we’re showing in densely populated cities such as Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Medellin in Colombia," Professor O’Neill said.

"We're now operating in 12 countries, and it’s very gratifying to see since our first trials in Cairns and Townsville, how this Australian technology is going around the world to help protect many more communities affected by these diseases."

Gates Foundation Deputy Director of Quantitative Sciences, Dr Steve Kern, said: “Witnessing the development of the Wolbachia approach from proof of concept to initial studies to the return of definitive epidemiological data is deeply gratifying.

"We’re pleased that countries are seeing the value of the World Mosquito Program’s approach and are funding its use from the Americas to Asia Pacific to reduce transmission of dengue and Zika.”

The WMP has shown in a recent paper its method works to stop local dengue transmission at citywide scale, in a four-year trial in the northern Australian city of Townsville.

Since commencing in Australia in 2011, the WMP has expanded to 11 other countries including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati and New Caledonia with its approach.

The WMP’s approach involves introducing naturally occurring Wolbachia into Aedes aegpyti mosquitoes to reduce their ability to transmit dengue, Zika and chikungunya. Once released, they breed with wild mosquitoes, passing on their ability to block these harmful viruses. Unlike other methods, the WMP�s approach is self-sustaining requiring no further need for releases.

This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About the World Mosquito Program (WMP)
Working to help protect the global community from mosquito-borne diseases, the World Mosquito Program (WMP), is a not-for- profit initiative core research facilities based at Monash University, Australia. It uses a safe, natural and effective method to reduce the threat of viruses such as dengue, Zika and chikungunya. Through our collaborative and innovative approach, we are helping to protect local communities from these diseases in Australia, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands.

READ: Fighting mosquito-spread viruses from the inside-out, by Professor Scott O’Neill