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Barcelona-based Professor Pedro Alonso named Director of the WHO Global Malaria Program

On Wednesday the World Health Organisation (WHO) appointed Barcelona-based researcher Pedro Alonso as the new Director of its Global Malaria Program. Alonso is a key figure in the global fight against malaria and has lead research into a vaccine to combat the life-threatening illness. He has been involved with WHO since 2011, when the organisation appointed him as the Chair of the GTS Steering Committee on the Global Technical Strategy on Malaria. Alonso is currently the Director of the Barcelona Institute for International Health Research. He is also the Head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at Barcelona's Hospital Clínic and a lecturer at Barcelona University. The physician is due to start his new position in October and is expected to give his formal recommendation on the strategy against malaria in the first quarter of 2015.

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31 July 2014 09:27 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- On Wednesday the World Health Organisation (WHO) appointed Barcelona-based researcher Pedro Alonso as the new Director of its Global Malaria Program. Alonso began his career in international health over 25 years ago and has become a key figure in the global fight against malaria. He has lead research into a vaccine to combat the life-threatening illness, called 'RTS,S', and has been involved with WHO since 2011, when the organisation appointed him as the Chair of the GTS Steering Committee on the Global Technical Strategy on Malaria, which aims to eliminate the disease in the coming decade. Alonso is currently the Director of the Barcelona Institute for International Health Research (CRESIB). He is also the Head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at Barcelona's Hospital Clínic and a lecturer at Barcelona University. The physician is due to start his new position in October in the WHO headquarters in Geneva, and is expected to give his formal recommendation about the strategy against malaria in the first quarter of 2015.


Alonso has been particularly active in the international fight against malaria in the past few years, and his research into malaria has received support from UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), amongst others. In fact, it is said that Alonso was who convinced the BMGF to direct efforts towards this illness. His work has focused particularly on the development of new tools for the prevention and treatment of malaria and in 2011 his research caught the attention of the World Health Organisation, who elected him as a member of the Malaria Policy Advisory Committee and named him Chair of the GTS Steering Committee on the Global Technical Strategy on Malaria.

In a statement Alonso said, "The appointment to the position of Director of the WHO Global Malaria Program is an honour. With the support of numerous institutions and the leaders of the affected countries, I am sure that the world can advance further towards the eradication of malaria".

A deadly disease

Malaria currently causes over 600,000 deaths a year, mostly of children under 5 years old, and is found all over the world, although it is most common in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is caused by a parasite (Plasmodium) which is transmitted via the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. If not treated quickly, this parasite can become life-threatening by provoking internal haemorrhages that disrupt the blood supply to vital organs.

Increased prevention and control measures have led to a reduction in malaria mortality rates by 42% globally since 2000, and WHO is currently developing a new strategy for the control and elimination of malaria within the next decade.

Pedro Alonso has led some ground-breaking research into the prevention of the disease. He has spent the last ten years developing the first malaria vaccine, RTS,S, which has demonstrated promising results and is likely be used in malaria prevention in the future. He is also the lead author on several papers on different strategies for malaria prevention and control.

A key figure in international health

Alonso began his career in international health 25 years ago as a young physician working in West Africa. There he focused on the key causes of mortality of the two most vulnerable groups in Africa: young children and pregnant women.

Since then the doctor has been increasingly active in campaigning for support for global health initiatives and building and strengthening human and institutional capacity in developing countries. He has published more than 300 papers in peer-reviewed journals and between 2005 and 2007 he led the Steering Committee that designed and implemented the European Union EDCTP initiative (European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership).

Alonso is currently a Board Member of the Medicines for Malaria Venture, the Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of the Decade of Vaccine Collaboration, the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Malaria Eradication Scientific Alliance (MESA) and a member of the WHO Malaria Policy Advisory Committee.

In 1996, with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECD), Alonso started the Manhiça Health Research Centre in Mozambique which focuses on biomedical research in developing countries. This organisation was one of four entities which received the Príncipe de Asturias Award for International Cooperation in 2008.

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  • The Barcelona-based researcher, Pedro Alonso (by ACN)

  • The Barcelona-based researcher, Pedro Alonso (by ACN)