The revived interest in eradicating malaria was sparked by the Gates Foundation, which has, over the past few years, committed millions of dollars to research and developing intervention tools, such as new-generation drugs.
“Our new multi-year malaria strategy, Accelerate to Zero, adopted in late 2013, addresses the areas in which we believe the foundation is best positioned, among a broad spectrum of partners, to develop ground-breaking approaches to reducing the burden of malaria and accelerating progress toward eradication of the disease,” the foundation says.
The bumpy road to eradication
Although eradicating the world of malaria has been on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) agenda for about 40 years, the campaign has lacked momentum, and has stuttered along with some success in some areas of the world and failure in others.
“No major success occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for 80% of today’s burden of malaria. When the aspiration of global eradication was abandoned in 1969, the main reasons for failure were technical challenges of executing the strategy, especially in Africa,” says a WHO bulletin.
One is the latest developments in eliminating the disease is the continuing partnership between Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and drug company, Novartis, to develop an antimalarial compound, with scientific and financial support from latter in collaboration with the Gates Foundation.
The compound, known as KAF156, belongs to a novel class of antimalarial molecules and is one of the first antimalarial drug candidates to enter Phase IIb clinical development in more than 20 years. It acts against the two parasites responsible for the majority of malaria deaths (plasmodium falciparum and plasmodium vivax) and against both the blood and liver stages of the parasite’s lifecycle.
Furthermore, it has the potential to provide a more convenient dosing regimen and to address the multidrug resistance that has emerged in five countries of the Great Mekong Sub-region (GMS).
New generation of antimalarials
“With a child dying from malaria every two minutes and the threat of drug resistance growing year-on-year, there is a real urgency to step up global efforts to combat this disease,” says Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis. “Partnerships and collaborations like this one with MMV are essential for the development of next generation antimalarials and accelerating efforts to eradicate this deadly disease.”
The Novartis Malaria Initiative is focused on conducting research and development for the next generation of antimalarials. Since 2001, the initiative has delivered more than 750m treatments without profit, including 300m dispersible paediatric treatments, mostly to the public sector of malaria-endemic countries.
“We are delighted to extend our partnership with Novartis in the development of this exciting candidate antimalarial medicine with the potential to tackle drug resistance and improve patient compliance,” says Dr David Reddy, CEO of MMV.
MMV’s vision is a world in which innovative medicines will cure and protect the vulnerable and under-served populations at risk of malaria, and ultimately help to eradicate this terrible disease.