Andrew Clark in his excellent News and Views article “Malaria variorum” (Nature 418, 283–285; 2002) discusses the extent of genetic variability exhibited in populations of Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of the most lethal form of malaria, and the implications for vaccine development and for the emergence of drug resistance. He concludes that a shared resource of P. falciparum isolates is needed to address the problem and to advance our understanding of the evolution of this species. We agree.
The Malaria Research and Reference Reagent Resource Center (MR4) was established in 1998, partly to provide the resources available to malaria researchers worldwide that Clark discusses, and is managed by the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC). Under contract to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), MR4 makes reagents available free of charge to registered individuals worldwide (see http://www.malaria.mr4.org). Further information can be found at the NIAID website (http://www.niaid.nih.gov/dmid/malaria/malrep/default.htm). MR4 currently has more than 450 reagents, including numerous isolates, strains and species of Plasmodium and Anopheles mosquitoes as well as antibodies, antigens, DNA libraries and primers and microarray chips.
Training programmes, workshops and technology transfer to malaria-endemic regions are also important components of MR4. We encourage researchers to collaborate with MR4 to develop and support the needs of the community, as well as to contribute resources that can thereby be made more widely available.