Greater collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry, academia and business is helping to accelerate the development of new drugs to combat malaria. Numerous research projects are underway including four in early patient trials. Whilst there is some way to go, the latest research into new antimalarials looks promising.

Dr David Reddy, CEO of Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) said, “This is an extremely exciting time to be involved in malaria drug development. The new drugs attack the parasites in different ways compared to treatments currently available; these new mechanisms of action are critical in the battle against drug resistance. Each of these projects has the potential to be a game changer.” 

"Research projects are underway, four are even in early patient trials."

Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are currently the first line of treatment for malaria. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) these drugs, along with the use of long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets and indoor residual spraying, have helped to save more than 6.2 million lives between 2000 and 2015.

However, resistance both to artemisinin and partner compounds used in combination therapies is threatening this progress. As of March 2017, WHO confirmed artemisinin resistance in five countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion. However, along the Cambodia-Thailand border, some parasites have shown resistance to almost all antimalarial medicines. Therefore, these patients must be treated with triple combinations.

In response, WHO have stepped up efforts to galvanize not only industry but also political support with the aim of eliminating malaria from the Greater Mekong Subregion by 2025. Globally, they are also targeting a 90% reduction in malaria infections and deaths, as well as elimination in 35 additional countries, all by 2030.

Photo credit: Ben Moldenhaur/MMV

At the Cambodia-Thailand border, some parasites have shown resistance to almost all antimalarials. Photo credit: MMV/Ben Moldenhauer


 

In recent years, new financial and political commitments have helped to move the malaria agenda forward. In 2013, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria committed $100 million for three years to intensify malaria efforts in the region. Development of new drugs has been a major part of this. “Since linking with partners in industry and academia we’ve been able to access their libraries and screen more than 7 million compounds, and there are currently 65 antimalarial drug projects underway,” confirms Dr. Reddy.

"70% of those who die from malaria are children under the age of five."

“We are specifically looking for drugs that are highly effective in treating children and pregnant women. 70% of those who die from malaria are children under the age of five. While the drug development industry has normally pursued medicines for adults before developing paediatric formulations, we prioritize the development of child-friendly treatments from the outset.”

Testing, treating and tracking malaria is all part of the global response initiated by WHO to stamp out the disease which continues to infect more than 212 million people every year. Momentum needs to be maintained to ensure we don’t miss this great opportunity to defeat one of the world’s greatest killers. 

Photo credit: Anna Wang/MMV

Child-friendly treatments are becoming a priority, as 70% of Malaria deaths are children under the age of five. Photo credit: MMV/Anna Wang


 

Learn more:

MMV is a leading product development partnership (PDP) in the field of antimalarial drug research and development.

Our mission is to reduce the burden of malaria in disease-endemic countries by discovering, developing and facilitating delivery of new, effective and affordable antimalarial drugs.

Our vision is a world in which these innovative medicines will cure and protect the vulnerable and under-served populations at risk of malaria, and help to ultimately eradicate this terrible disease.

Website: www.mmv.org