Malaria is a tropical disease with an annual 300 to 500 million clinical cases of infection around the world resulting in the deaths of 3 to 5 million people each year.
A vaccine, developed by Manuel Elkin Patarroyo, is being used to treat one of the most virulent forms of this disease (scientifically designated as “SPf66”). This vaccine has shown to be effective among 40 to 66 percent of adults and 77 percent of children under age 5. The vaccine has been successfully tested in more than 40,000 people in regions where the disease infects the population in epidemic proportions (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil and, more recently, in several African countries).
The possibility of producing a synthetic vaccine sparked the interest and curiosity of major pharmaceutical companies. However, in an act of generosity, Patarroyo, who was offered 74 million dollars from a pharmaceutical corporation to obtain the patent for the malaria vaccine, instead donated the vaccine in May 1993 to the World Health Organization (WHO), with the provision that the production and commercialization of this vaccine be managed in Colombia. This implied setting up a modern plant to manufacture the vaccine. This condition allowed Patarroyo, under the endorsement of the WHO, to sponsor voluntary vaccine campaigns in places with extreme living conditions and extensive Malaria infection, such as the country of Tanzania.
Although the vaccine has been criticized for its limited effectiveness rate, 30% of people vaccinated are protected from the virus, signifying the saving of 1 million lives per year.
Despite being offered positions in research centers throughout the world, Patarroyo decided to establish himself in his native country, Colombia, working with a small interdisciplinary group, and with limited resources, until he was able to develop a large research team. Additionally, doctor Patarroyo has, during the last twenty years, accomplished remarkable research with other diseases, including discovering a method to obtain new synthetic vaccines (something scientists did not expect to achieve until the year 2025).
In a press release, the organizers of Ethics, Humanism and Science Dialogues: the Gipuzkoa Commission, the Donostia Hospital, and the Caja Laboral, announced that Patarroyo’s presentation, which will take place this Wednesday from 7:30 pm in Kursaal Hall, will be introduced by Doctor Julio Arrizabalaga, scientific director of the (Instituto Biodonostia) Institute of Biodiagnostics.
**A Scientist Committed To Society**
The scientist and pioneer of the first synthetic vaccine to prevent malaria, Manuel Elkin Patarroyo, will give his discourse entitled “The Social Commitment of Science: The Malaria Vaccine as an Example.”
The organizers of this initiative emphasize that Elkin Patarroyo, awarded the Prince of Asturias Award (Premio de Príncipe de Asturias) 1994, is “considered by many as bona fide champion of humanity” and that his “enormous social conscience” lead him to donate the vaccine to the World Health of the Organization.
A physician and surgeon, graduated by the National University of Colombia, Patarroyo furthered his studies in Immunology and Virology in the United States. In 1984, Patarroyo became the, founder and director of the Institute of Immunology (the Instituto de Inmunología) based in the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Bogotá. Patarroyo is a professor at the National University of Colombia and an assistant professor at the Rockefeller University in New York as well as the University of Stockholm (Sweden).
Patarroyo has been awarded the Third World Sciences National prize (1990), the Robert Koch prize in Germany (1994), and the Leon Bernard prize (WHO, 1995), among others. He received honorary doctorates from several universities, including the Complutense University of Madrid, the University of La Laguna in Tenerife, and the National University of Athens. Since 1991, Patarroyo has been a Member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences in Madrid, and since 1996, an Honorary Academic member at the Galician Royal Academy of Medicine and Surgery.