Share Our Strength founder Shore (The Light of Conscience: How a Simple Act Can Change Your Life, 2004, etc.) examines a handful of philanthropic innovators in the fight against malaria.
The author profiles the imaginative and unreasonable men and women who are battling malaria around the world. He looks closely at Steve Hoffman, who heads a private firm developing a whole but weakened malaria parasite vaccine. The steps require breeding mosquitoes infected with the parasite, dissecting out the parasites from the insects’ salivary glands, irradiating them, assuring they are free of contaminants and then preserving them for use as inoculants to trigger an immune response. It’s an impressive technological feat, but the praise heaped on Hoffman is off-putting, as are the author’s frequent repetitions of data and background information. While Shore emphasizes a malaria vaccine as the Holy Grail, he admires an innovator who is using microbes to generate inexpensive versions of artemisinin, a current treatment. Nor does he disparage RTS,S, another vaccine candidate currently in trials in Africa, or the use of insecticide-treated bed nets. But issues remain, including the need for good governance, infrastructure and education in the African countries most afflicted by the disease—dilemmas ably chronicled by Sonia Shah in The Fever (2010). There are also significant scientific hurdles, as too little is understood about malaria immunity. Hoffman’s vaccine passed safety tests but has yet to prove efficacious. Finally, Shore writes that we need to rethink philanthropy. There’s no question that Bill Gates has been an important player, but Shore argues that nonprofits must become less dependent on donors and more self-sustaining by being market-oriented. He cites achievements of a nonprofit pharmaceutical company developing drugs for neglect diseases and Hoffman’s intention of marketing his vaccine to tourists and the military while making it available in poor countries.
Aside from the fulsome hero-worship, Shore provides solid information on malaria research, along with provocative views on “social entrepreneurship.”