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Dr Manuel Patarroyo, 48, director of the Immunology Institute, Bogota, Colombia, developed the first chemical vaccine against malaria, a disease that kills 3.5 million people a year. He is to donate the patent for his proto-vaccine to the World Health Organisation next month. He talked to Elizabeth Nash in Madrid.

Training: About 12 years.

Experience: 18 years.

Hours: All hours. "I even talk about work in my sleep."

Salary: Not disclosed.

The job: "In my laboratory we developed the vaccine from parts of the malaria organism, plasmodium, and created a new synthetic molecule, SPF66, which we tested, first on monkeys, then on people. Some 40,000 people have been injected without grave side-effects, with a success rate of between 31 per cent and 60 per cent throughout Latin America and Africa.

Many would prefer a 90 per cent efficacy, but if even a third of the 300 million people who contract malaria every year can be protected, that makes me happy. But we are working all the time to make it better. This February the WHO approved the vaccine on the basis of the trials so far, so I am giving them the patent.

The only other malaria treatment is tablets, which you take once or twice a week, and if you stop taking them, you become ill. The pills have bad side-effects and are not a solution for the majority of people.

My next task is to set up a production plant in Colombia. I want to keep the vaccine out of the hands of big pharmaceutical companies, and start a mass immunisation campaign.

Pros: I am proud to have created this vaccine. It is like my son. It has grown up now and walks by itself.

It is not perfect but it saves lives and it is the only one we have got.

Cons: The scepticism of scientists in the Anglo-Saxon community. They are reluctant to recognise the importance of something from South America that benefits people mainly from poor countries. Also, the malaria parasite is very smart, it keeps outwitting us.

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