GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can
and recommend them to donors (why we recommend so few charities
). We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning
The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that (for the time being), we won't be prioritizing the organization in question as a potential top charity
. This write-up should not
be taken as a "negative rating" of the charity. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.
PATH does not currently qualify for our highest ratings
PATH has some arguably impressive achievements to its credit, and its ongoing funded activities may be promising as well. However, when examining the activities on which marginal dollars
are likely to be spent, we do not see an outstanding case for impact. This situation may reflect that PATH gets significant funding (some of it with few strings attached) from a major funder, the Gates Foundation.
Published: September 2012
Why did we consider PATH promising?
We prioritized analysis of PATH
because of its track record of developing technology products for developing world health. These products include its vaccine vial monitor, Soloshot AD syringe, and its role in developing malaria and rotavirus vaccines. We haven't deeply investigated these cases, but have the rough impression that the products in question have proven useful, and we investigated PATH further to determine if it had room for more funding
for current projects similar to those above.
We spoke with representatives from PATH about its activities; we also spoke with a representative of PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative (an initiative that is part of PATH but raises its own funds).
Considering PATH for unrestricted funding
We met with PATH representatives at its office on September 21, 2011 aiming to (a) better understand PATH's approach to development and (b) learn more about how it would use additional funds. We were trying to determine whether additional unrestricted funds would be used in a way that would be likely to lead to product developments like the ones listed above.
PATH articulated two potential uses for additional unrestricted funds:
- The "PATH fund." The fund is supported by unrestricted donations. PATH staff can apply for funding for small projects and if successful, these can become larger projects. These funds support projects such as literature reviews, white papers, development of proposals for larger grants, and small-scale testing of new approaches, for example, for diabetes testing. We reviewed several examples of such projects.
- PATH-driven health projects. PATH is also seeking to raise $50 million for PATH-driven (as opposed to donor-driven) projects. When we met with PATH, it was still in the process of developing the specific project ideas, but it told us that its MACEPA project (a field project where PATH has a broad mandate to fight malaria) and its BHP Billiton project (a field project where PATH has a broad mandate to improve the health and development of very young children) are broadly representative of the types of programs it would aim to implement.
We do not feel that the above represent giving opportunities competitive with our top charities
Considering PATH programs for restricted funding
As part of GiveWell Labs
, we may consider specific programs for restricted funding (as opposed to unrestricted funds which the charity can use at its discretion). GiveWell Labs is currently in an early stage and investigating the areas below is not sufficiently high on our agenda (as of June 2012)
PATH listed specific technologies it might develop if it had additional funding for this specific purpose. PATH stated that it is generally hard to get funding for these projects but that a grant from the Gates Foundation allows it to pursue preliminary work on them. One example was developing better tools for dealing with obstetric and neonatal emergencies at the community level, including ways to prevent postpartum hemorrhage (and to treat it if it occurs); ways to get women to referral care; simple anesthetic machines; and simple ways to do Caesarean operations. PATH also mentioned developing technologies for non-communicable diseases, such as effective ways to monitor hypertension.
PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative.
In 1999, the Gates Foundation created PATH MVI to coordinate efforts to develop a malaria vaccine. PATH has been involved with a vaccine candidate that has thus far shown promising results.
Regarding its short-term funding needs, a representative from MVI told us in April 2011, "We're now facing a shortfall of slightly more than $1 million in 2012 and 2013 to complete the MTI research at the RTS,S trial sites." Based on strong past support from the Gates Foundation, we believe MVI has a strong likelihood of closing this funding gap. PATH MVI also discussed its longer-term funding needs.
- New England Journal of Medicine. First results of Phase 3 Trial of RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine in African children. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1102287 (accessed June 7, 2012). Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/68F2z5jP5.
- GiveWell. Notes from meeting with PATH representatives (September 21, 2011) (DOC).
- GiveWell. Notes from phone conversation with Sally Ethelston, Director, Communications and Advocacy, PATH MVI (April 14, 2011) (DOC).
- PATH. Accelerating access to rotavirus vaccines: Protection for the world's poorest countries (PDF).
- PATH. ARV Therapy Proposal. We have not received permission to post this document.
- PATH. Board of Directors’ Report: 30 Largest PATH Programs (2011) (PDF).
- PATH. Developing malaria vaccines: Investing in the tools of the trade (PDF).
- PATH. Directions in Global Health (2011) (PDF).
- PATH. Gestational Diabetes Screening. We have not received permission to post this document.
- PATH. Organization Charts (2011) (PDF).
- PATH. Technology Solutions for Global Health (2011) (PDF).
- PATH. Technology Solutions for Global Health: SoloShot (2011) (PDF).
- PATH. Window of Opportunity project: An integrated approach to health and development in Africa (2011) (PDF).
- PATH. World's smartest sticker: For ten years vaccine vial monitors have flagged spoiled vaccine (PDF).
- PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. About us. http://www.malariavaccine.org/about-overview.php (accessed June 7, 2012). Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/68F2FqriG.
- Weigl, Bernhard H., Jen Drake, and Claudia Harner-Jay. 2011. Diabetes screening in low-resource settings: Developing target product profiles for gestational diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and potentially Type 1 diabetes (PDF). Seattle: PATH.