Projects

Development of a malaria vaccine
Current malaria medicine is expensive and insufficient to cater for all infected people. Finding an adequate vaccine for malaria is thus a pressing matter. In this project three research groups, each with their own specialties, are brought together to work on developing a new vaccine.

The first step in the project is isolating a sufficient amount of the malaria-causing parasite. The company Sanaria has developed a way to harvest the parasite directly from mosquitoes. The second step is weakening these parasites by radiation or genetic modification in order for it to potentially be used as a vaccine. The first human trial in which patients were infused with these parasites under chloroquine (a common malaria medicine) cover showed a hundred percent effectiveness of the vaccination. The group expects to have developed a working vaccine within five years, although it will have to be fine-tuned before it can be marketed.

Fast facts
Full project title: Development of an attenuated parasite vaccine for malaria
Start date: January 2008
End date: October 2012
Goal: Development of a vaccine for malaria
Principal investigator: Robert Sauerwein, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen Medical Center
Project size: 14 FTE's
Partners: Leiden University Medical Centre, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen Medical Center, Sanaria

Background

Each year between 300 and 500 million people get infected with malaria. Over one million people die of the infection, especially young children who have not yet developed sufficient resistance against malaria infections. The disease is spread by mosquitoes infected with a parasite called Plasmodium. These parasites are injected with the mosquito’s saliva during a bite. The parasites reside in the liver and after between two weeks and several months they start to multiply within, and therewith infect, the red blood cells. This causes symptoms such as headache, fever, vomiting, anema and if left untreated hallucinations, coma and eventually death. The disease can be treated and completely cured with proper medication. When traveling to risk countries malaria can be prevented by using anti-malaria tablets. However, for people living in risk countries prevention and treatment is not as easy. Ninety percent of malaria-caused deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and are a direct effect of poverty. For these countries malaria causes tremendous economic setbacks. Finding an adequate vaccine is thus clearly a pressing matter. Especially since in many parts of the worlds the parasite have already developed resistance to a number of medicines.

“The experience that TI Pharma has from putting together partnerships to research neglected diseases is really valuable, because it applies across other therapeutic diseases.”

Tim Wells
Chief Scientific Officer
Medicines for Malaria Venture

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