Alan Magill, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

TITLE: Director, Global Health

FUNDING AREAS: Malaria prevention, vaccines, and treatment

CONTACT: alan.magill@gatesfoundation.org, 206-709-3100

IP TAKE: Trained physician and infectious disease specialist Magill traveled the world with the U.S. military, fighting pandemics and parasites. Today, Magill oversees malaria work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and allocates hundreds of millions of dollars to global malaria eradication every year. 

PROFILE: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, making more than $3 billion in grants a year, is a force for global public health. Gates focuses many of its resources on disease eradication in some of the world’s most impoverished regions. The capacity to prevent and treat illness is crucial for any society’s well-being, but is sorely lacking in many parts of the world.

Malaria is among the illnesses Gates concentrates its efforts on. The disease is both preventable and treatable, but it persists in killing hundreds of thousands of people every year. The population most likely to contract malaria? Children in Africa, some of the most underserved people in the world, in terms of basic access to sanitation, healthcare, and preventative medicine. Fortunately, investments in anti-malarial efforts work well. Since 2000, the mortality rate of malaria patients has fallen by 45%, thanks largely to concerted efforts by the international health community to tackle the disease. Still, millions of people contract malaria on an annual basis. But the Gates Foundation is betting that with the right resources, malarial disease can be eliminated completely.

Heading up Gates’ anti-malarial work is Dr. Alan Magill, an infectious disease specialist with a long history working on large-scale, global health initiatives. A physician by training, Magill completed his medical residency at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, the headquarters of the Pacific Regional Medical Command. Magill worked as a clinician in Germany, and ran the parasitology division at the U.S. Navy’s Medical Research Center in Peru. Most recently, Magill worked at the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA), where he concentrated on controlling and preventing pandemic influenza.

In addition to his work at Gates, Magill is also currently president of The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. That role dovetails nicely with the directive Magill oversees at Gates, to oversee the foundation's vision for malaria elimination. Magill has worked to refine that vision into a strategy called Accelerate to Zero, which focuses on a multi-pronged approach to eradication and emerging drug resistance. 

In this vein, Magill oversees strategy implementation and grantmaking relating to malarial vaccines, diagnostics, and anti-malarial therapies. He doesn't make a huge number malaria related grants every year. Recent years have seen between $20 to $30 million doled out in total. But the grants Magill and his team make are often substantial to each project. While Gates has funded a number of smaller malaria initiatives over the years with grants of under $100,000, most Gates malaria grantees receive at least $1 million in support from the foundation, and can sometimes receive upwards of $100 million.

A sampling of some of Gates' recent anti-malarial investments: 

  • $160.37 million over 64 months to the Geneva based Medicines for Malaria to help accelerate development and access to new antimalarial medicines.
  • $15.43 million over 38 months to the University of California, San Francisco "to develop and test new malaria elimination strategies and tools " 
  • $2.82 million over 24 months to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research for the creation of a system to control and treat malaria among Cambodian servicemembers and their dependents.
  • $2.19 million over 27 months to the African Leaders Malaria Alliance to sustain funding and political commitment for anti-malarial efforts by high-level African policymakers.

The foundation regularly posts open grant opportunities on its website, and if you believe your organization's work aligns with one of the foundation's priorities, you can submit a letter of inquiry for consideration. If the foundation likes what it sees, it will support you through the development of a formal proposal. Gates grant opportunities change periodically, but as of when this post is being written, the foundation is calling for inquiries on projects related to global health in six of the foundation's seven focus areas.