It is a depressing statistic, but every single minute, a child somewhere in the world dies from malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, globally, 3.4 billion people are at risk of the tropical disease which, according to the WHO, caused an estimated 627,000 deaths in 2012.
Nonetheless, science is continuing its fightback. At GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the British pharmaceutical giant, scientists and researchers have been working in conjunction with the Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) on a vaccine – known as RTS,S – which could transform the battle against malaria.
"Making a vaccine against a parasite is a world first, because they are very, very complex," Dr Moncef Slaoui, Chairman of Global Research & Development and Vaccines at GSK, told Episode 6 of CNBC's Industrial Revolutions. "With one vaccine we take two stabs at this parasite: when it gets in the blood and when it hides in our liver for a period of days before it makes us sick."
In late 2013, GSK released results of their large-scale Phase III trial of RTS,S. The trial showed that the vaccine reduced the number of malaria cases in young children by nearly half. In infants, the number of malaria cases fell by around a quarter.
"The work that has taken place over the past 18 months… has really been to understand the impact that these levels of protection can have on toddlers and infants in sub Saharan Africa," Slaoui told CNBC.com in a phone interview.
"Once we started to express them as the number of cases prevented for one thousand children immunized, our conclusion… [became] very clear: that this actually should be introduced and used," he added.
GSK hopes to have regulatory approval for the vaccine this year. It's been a long road – nearly 30 years – according to Slaoui, but worth it.
"I grew up in an environment where it was completely normal for a child to die," Slaoui said. "Being part of making it not normal for a child to die is great… while it's not perfect, it's already an incredible improvement in the lives of these people," he added.