The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Development Cooperation goes, in this ninth edition, to Pedro L. Alonso and Peter J. Myler for having advanced our understanding regarding the detection and prevention of infectious diseases that particularly affect vulnerable populations in developing countries.
Alonso and colleagues’ experimental evaluation of insecticide treated bed nets to fend off infectious mosquitos in the 1980s, and successful testing of vaccines against malaria infection in the 2000s have now emerged as two pillars of malaria control. In 2015 about 400,000 people died from malaria, and millions suffered from the infection.
Myler and colleagues in 2005 and thereafter described the genomes of the agents of two other infectious diseases affecting millions of people in developing countries: Chagas disease, transmitted by “kissing bugs,” and leishmaniasis, transmitted by sand flies. An estimated 40,000 people died from these diseases in 2015. These research advances in structural genomics open a route to develop new drugs to fight these and potentially other infectious diseases.
The innovations behind the approaches pioneered by the two award winners are poised to become critical parts of a more successful strategy to reduce infectious disease burdens in developing countries.