The Robot that Could Kill Malaria

It's easy to forget that one of the biggest obstacles standing between scientists and medical breakthroughs is the sheer scale of research necessary to gain even an inch of ground. In the battle against Malaria, researchers have found a way to automate one of their most painstaking and time-consuming processes: mosquito dissection. Now, with robots on their side, they have more time and data available to wage war on this international crisis.

This week, Dr. Stephen Hoffman took another leap into the new-media world, launching a crowd funding site to raise money to build a robot called “SpoRobot” to vastly increase the efficiency of extracting the salivary glands from mosquitoes for the malaria vaccine. The disease remains a global scourge despite rapid advances in providing insecticide nets and spraying homes, mostly with DDT. More than 600,000 people died from malaria last year, according to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of them young children in Africa.

Right now, each staff researcher is able to dissect 160 mosquitoes an hour. They sit on tall chairs with bright red seats peering down into microscopes. It is tedious work. “If we had a robot, it could work 24/7 and it could increase production 20- to 30-fold,” says Hoffman. “And it would require less training. It would be a dramatic improvement to provide the vaccine if we had a robot.” Read entire article here>