First-ever drug compound developed on African soil, an antimalarial, to move to human trials

Researchers announce progress at the 2013 MIM Conference

08 Oct 2013

A promising next-generation drug is expected to move to Phase I human trials in 2014, pending approval from Safety, Ethics and Regulatory committees. The development was announced by researchers today at a major conference on malaria that also presented efforts to stop growing resistance by malaria parasites to artemisinin in Southeast Asia and to keep artemisinin combination therapies effective for as long as possible. Other researchers in West Africa reported on work to test the safety of multiple administration of a new ACT, Pyramax (pyranoridine-artesunate), which was recently approved by the European Medicines Agency.

These new findings were among many announced at the Sixth Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Pan-African Malaria Conference—the world’s largest gathering of malaria experts—taking place in Durban, South Africa, 6-11 October 2013. At the conference, researchers also reported on research using mobile phone text messages to increase compliance with malaria drug dosing and preliminary research on counterfeit drugs in six countries in Africa and Asia.

The next-generation antimalarial compound, MMV390048, underwent a year of preclinical development after discovery in 2012 by a project team led by researchers with the Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3-D) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. International project partners included the Eskitis Institute at Griffiths University (Australia), the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Switzerland), Monash University (Australia), Syngene (India) and the Switzerland-based Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).

The researchers were able to identify the mode of action the compound uses against the parasite and show that it is a truly novel mechanism. With resistance constantly biting at the heels of research against malaria, researchers say it is essential to fully understand how new drugs work so any potential future issues with resistance can be addressed.

MMV390048 is the first drug compound discovered and researched on African soil for clinical development for any disease. “It is our hope that this drug will go all the way to market and fulfill its promise,” said Kelly Chibale, founder and director of H3-D. “But whether it does or not, this work shows that pessimism about Africa is sometimes unfounded. This research, for Africans by Africans, shows the excellence in science that exists on the continent.”

Read the full MIM press release below for more announcements made around extending the usefulness of current artemisinin therapies and on surveillance & monitoring: trip wires for resistance.