Satellite, Digital X-Rays Used To Fight Malaria - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy

Satellite, Digital X-Rays Used To Fight Malaria

The next phase of recent vaccination trials in remote "malaria belt" African countries is using cutting-edge networking and monitoring technology.

Using Satellites To Prevent Malaria

Using Satellites To Prevent Malaria
(click for larger image)

There are now high-tech weapons in the fight against malaria -- a combination of digital X-ray and satellite technology -- that scientists are hoping will help researchers thousands of miles away monitor the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Over the last 20 years, pharmaceutical maker GlaxoSmithKline has spent $300 million to develop a vaccine against malaria, which kills more than 1 million young children each year. With additional funding of $100 million provided recently by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the vaccination will soon enter an important new phase of trial testing in remote "malaria belt" African countries.

GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals recently completed an initial phase of the trial testing, which involved a few hundred African children. But at the end of March or early April, the company will launch the next phase of trial testing for the vaccination over the next four years, involving 16,000 children in 11 remote clinics in seven African nations.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 350 million to 500 million malaria cases occur worldwide each year, resulting in more than a million deaths, mostly of young children in Africa south of the Sahara.

Using Satellites To Prevent Malaria

Using Satellites To Prevent Malaria
(click for larger image)

In what GlaxoSmithKline officials believe is a first for using satellite technology in a pharmaceutical project of this size, patient clinical data and digital X-ray images will be transmitted directly from the 11 African locations, via GE Satlynx geosynchronous NSS-7 satellite dishes, to a ground station in Europe, and from there to GSK's remote data entry system called [email protected], over a secure virtual private network.

"There is no copper or cable infrastructure" available in those very rural locations in the African bush, said Neil Darwent, director of IT, global clinical R&D and vaccination development at GSK. Many of those participating clinics have electrical power only via generators for the equipment and the PCs that will be used to collect the data.

"Many of the parents will bring their children to these clinics by foot, walking for days," he said.

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