Geneva and Brisbane. Australian scientists at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane Australia, will accelerate the development of new malaria drugs with the support of a grant of up to AU$10 million from Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).
The grant will be applied to the induced human infection model, an approach developed by MMV in partnership with scientists at QIMR Berghofer led by Professor James McCarthy. This model enables testing of promising candidate antimalarial drugs in healthy volunteers inoculated with a small number of malaria parasites, without putting them at risk.
Speed and cost are critical factors in the development of new, affordable medicines for malaria. In traditional drug development, new medicines are first trialed in healthy volunteers to determine their safety (Phase I studies) then tested in patients to determine if they actually cure the disease (Phase II efficacy studies). By using the new model, preliminary efficacy can be assessed at the same time as safety, and thus significantly shorten the R&D process. Potential new drugs can be tested on fewer patients, data can be collated more quickly and at a lower cost, and the drugs can then progress to large-scale clinical trials.
“We are pleased to support the excellent team at QIMR Berghofer on this pioneering initiative for malaria drug development,” said MMV CEO Dr David Reddy. “The team is an outstanding example of Australia’s capacity to incubate new ideas and knowledge, and translate this into new tools – in this case, for the development of new medicines for malaria that will have important social and economic benefits to Australia, Asia-Pacific, and the rest of the world.”
The funds have been sourced from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and form part of an overall package of AU$15 M provided to QIMR Berghofer by MMV dating back to 2009.
The grant to QIMR is the largest grant made by MMV to Australian scientists involved in the development of antimalarial medicines. The grant will support Australian scientists working in partnership with MMV and the global malaria community.
QIMR Berghofer Director and CEO Frank Gannon welcomed the partnership. “QIMR Berghofer was established 70 years ago to research tropical diseases that were afflicting people and holding back development in northern Australia and throughout the tropics worldwide,” Professor Gannon said. “Professor McCarthy’s work through the partnership with MMV continues this proud tradition.”
Almost half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria. Since 2000, considerable gains have been made in the fight against malaria: 6.2 million deaths have been averted. Yet major challenges remain. The disease continues to kill over half a million people a year, 75% of whom are children under five. And multidrug resistance, identified in the Greater Mekong region, threatens to spread. The challenge now is to develop novel, effective and easy to administer antimalarials that can counter this resistance and block malaria transmission.
MMV was established in 1999 as a not-for-profit research foundation. Between 1999 and 2014, MMV has contributed over AU$20 M to Australian-based malaria research, sourced from international donors.
The announcement was made at the Northern Territory Australia at the Northern Australia Investment Summit, Darwin Convention Centre, Stokes Hill Road, Darwin 9.30am Sunday 8 November 2015.
Notes for editors
MMV is a leading product development partnership (PDP) in the field of antimalarial drug research and development. Its 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.
Managing the largest portfolio of antimalarial R&D projects ever assembled, of over 65 projects, MMV has nine new drugs in clinical development addressing unmet medical needs in malaria, including medicines for children, pregnant women and relapsing malaria, and drugs that could support the elimination/eradication of malaria. MMV’s success in research and access & product management comes from its extensive partnership network of over 375 pharmaceutical, academic and endemic-country partners in 50 countries.
Since its foundation in 1999, MMV and partners have developed and brought forward five new medicines that are already saving lives.
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.
For more information, please visit http://www.mmv.org
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About QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute is a world leading translational research institute focused on cancer, infectious diseases, mental health and a range of complex disorders. Working in close collaboration with clinicians and other research institutes, our aim is to improve health by developing new diagnostics, better treatments and prevention strategies.
For more information about QIMR Berghofer, visit www.qimrberghofer.edu.au.
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