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Battling Malaria: Strengthening the U.S. Military Malaria Vaccine Program
However, some basic and innovative research including new antigen discovery appears under tasks 6A and 6B as well. Task areas 6A and 6B are relatively new divisions within program area F, and the distinctions are still fluid. Task 6A essentially covers work carried out under the auspices of WRAIR, and 6B covers NMRC-specific projects; Task F is intended to cover joint activities. Within each task area there are three to five subsidiary objectives.
Several specific aspects of program management are discussed in the following sections, noting particularly the programmatic barriers that are impeding progress. Significant reorganization is then suggested in order to overcome these barriers.
Project Management Structure
DoD intramural funds are distributed through MIDRP by a proposal application and funding process with an annual cycle (although some core activities such as sporozoite production and GMP production are automatically renewed and are not subject to review each year). Currently, the objectives and their justifications under each task area are developed by a joint steering committee between WRAIR and NMRC that meets four times per year, mainly to manage the project proposal and approval process. The objectives for each task are described in written research plans distributed on the MIDRP website in order to solicit proposals.
Investigator-initiated proposals are written and submitted by objective, first as preproposals and then, if merited, as full proposals. In MIDRP as a whole, for fiscal year (FY) 2007 a large number (225) of new preproposals and 135 new full proposals were submitted, of which 72 new projects will be funded. The total is 116 funded projects since there are also 13 core projects and 31 multiyear projects. A subset of the total proposals submitted for FY2007 are for malaria vaccines: 42 preproposals and 28 full proposals, of which 14 will be funded, together with 3 core and 5 multiyear projects (total 22 for malaria vaccines). Each year the amounts of funds approved for WRAIR and NMRC projects are approximately equal.
External and onsite review by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) occurs in order to review the steering committee prioritization of the proposals; however, MIDRP and the steering committee are not obligated to follow the AIBS recommendations. After prioritization, projects above the funding cutoff are approved. Senior Army and Navy investigators intimated that the quality of the AIBS reviews was erratic, and reviewers’ comments were not always helpful. In contrast, they lauded the broader type of review offered by a U.S.