African research is rising

MMV’s Project of the Year 2012 awarded to scientists from University of Cape Town, South Africa

12 Jul 2013

The first antimalarial compound to be researched on African soil was named Project of the Year for 2012 by Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). The compound, MMV390048, was developed by an international collaboration led by a team of scientists from the University of Cape Town (UCT).  

The award was given in recognition of the potential of this compound to become part of a single-dose cure for malaria. Prof Kelly Chibale, the Founder and Director of H3-D, UCT’s drug discovery and development centre, received the award on behalf of the team at the International Malaria Symposium at UCT today.

More potent than chloroquine or artemisinin

“We are very excited about the promise shown by MMV390048 against the blood stage of malaria,” said Dr Timothy Wells, Chief Scientific Officer at MMV. “The compound is showing more potency than chloroquine or even artemisinin. It also has activity against other stages of the malaria parasite’s life-cycle as well as all known resistant strains of the parasite. The development of the MMV390048 shows once again that African scientists are rising to the challenge and taking the lead in malaria drug research, using the partnership model to achieve success.”

The search for new antimalarials is a global endeavour. MMV is one of the world’s leading organisations driving the quest to find a single-dose cure for this disease. It is working in partnership with UCT, which focuses its research on critical issues affecting developing countries. Every year, malaria kills between 600,000 and one million people. Of those affected, over 90% are from Sub-Saharan African and 86% are below the age of 5. The malaria parasite is beginning to display signs of resistance to drugs currently being used in the treatment of malaria, and thus there is an urgent need to develop new drugs to effectively treat the disease.

Professor Chibale, who is also a member of UCT’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, was proud to receive the award. “UCT launched H3-D to focus drug discovery research on the development of an African solution to this largely African problem. Working with MMV and partners from around the world, we have been able to develop MMV390048 into a clinical candidate in record time and provide excellent, world-class training for the next generation of African scientists,” he said. “Today, through a unique model for successful use of technology platforms and generic pharmaceutical industry expertise, the compound is progressing towards clinical development and we hope to test its safety and efficacy in humans next year.”

MMV390048 has now entered preclinical development, with partnerships in India, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. The compound is expected to be ready for human testing in March 2014.