Malaria debilitates hundreds of millions of people – and kills up to three million – each year. Preventable tropical diseases such as this were the incentive for David Weatherall, Nuffield Professor of Medicine, to establish one of the most successful programmes in the history of Oxford medicine. In collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, Oxford scientists altered the concept of tropical medicine to ‘medicine in the tropics’, sending doctors to the sites of diseases in the developing world, and forming genuine partnerships with host countries.
In May 1979 the Mahidol–Oxford–Wellcome Unit opened in Thailand, with David Warrell as director. A year later Nick White, a specialist in infectious diseases, joined the unit. Their collective determination and scientific originality laid the foundations for the model of medicine in the tropics at both basic and applied levels. The subsequent work of the unit, along with other Oxford colleagues including Kevin Marsh, in the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)–Wellcome Trust programme, has greatly increased our understanding of malaria, especially in the field of disease control.
This podcast of Professor Nick White discussing artemisinin therapy for malaria is part of the Nuffield Department of Medicine's Podcast: Meet our Researchers series, in which medical researchers at the University of Oxford discuss their work. See them all here.