Reflecting on the RBM Vector Control Working Group and Multi-sectoral Working Group Meetings 

Posted 3rd May 2024 by By Samantha O’Loughlin

Prior to the MIM Pan African Conference in Kigali in April, two other important malaria meetings took place; the RBM Vector Control Working Group (VCWG) and RBM Multi-sectoral Working Group (MSWG).  

VCWG is hosted by the RBM Partnership to Roll Back Malaria. It brings together researchers, funders and mosquito control practitioners to share research updates, national strategies, and the latest results of field trials. Genetic control was more visible this year than at last year’s meeting; it was mentioned in the context of the development of new testing guidelines by WHO, and also highlighted as an important potential new tool by Helen Jamet of BMGF. On day two of the meeting Target Malaria and FNIH were given the opportunity to give updates on the development of gene drive for malaria control. Mike Santos gave an overview of projects and technologies, I presented an update on Target Malaria activities and John Connolly presented the work that will shortly be published on designs for gene drive mosquito field trials. From coffee break chats it was clear that there is rising hope and excitement around gene drive technology as a potential game-changer, particularly for the control of outdoor transmission where new tools and innovation are desperately needed. 

Group photo from RBM’s Vector Control Working Group Meeting

I also attended the MSWG; this was a smaller meeting to discuss the intersection between malaria control and other sectors such as construction, agriculture and tourism. I could see some synergies with our work on gene drive; for multisectoral initiatives to succeed it is important to encourage high-level collaboration between different ministries and policy makers, an approach that we will also need to pursue for our own area-wide intervention. 

Both meetings had good attendance from National Malaria Control Programs, who bring important insights into the challenges they face to practically implement tools in situations where infrastructure is poor and funding is limited. It will be important for us to continue to engage with both of these RBM working groups as we progress towards field trials and – hopefully – providing a valuable new technology to complement the existing malaria control tool box.