MMV awards challenge grants to seven Malaria Box recipients

Malaria endemic-country researchers among recipients of grants to boost neglected disease drug research

06 Mar 2015

MMV has awarded challenge grants of USD $100,000 to seven researchers working on compounds from the Malaria Box. The grants are set to boost neglected disease drug discovery and development particularly in disease-endemic countries.

The Malaria Box is a collection of 400 diverse compounds active against malaria assembled by MMV and launched in 2011. In this initiative, the largest of its kind, 185 boxes have been distributed to researchers around the world, free of charge. The compounds have been studied in over 500 different tests against different animal and human pathogens and even human cancer cells. 

Though investigators have found some of the Malaria Box compounds have exciting activity against other infectious diseases, many said they were unable to take the research to the next step, due to lack of funding. This is a particular issue for scientists working in malaria-endemic countries where research grants are scarce.

Together with partners, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI), MMV issued a call for applications for Malaria Box challenge grants. Of the 30 received, seven were then selected to receive the grants by a team comprising MMV staff and members of MMV’s Expert Scientific Advisory Committee. 

“It was great to see many strong applications from disease-endemic country scientists,” said Dr Tim Wells, MMV’s Chief Scientific Officer. “It’s a clear sign of the growing expertise in biology and medicine in these groups. Together with the chemistry insights from the Malaria Box project, these grants will help spur neglected disease research and train new scientists in drug discovery. It’s a recipe for success and a great investment in the future.” 

In addition to work on malaria, the grants will enable work on pathogens including: 

  • Schistosoma mansoni – the most deadly worm disease in the world
  • Toxoplasma gondii  – which causes human birth defects and severe parasitic infections
  • Onchocerca volvulus – one of the most common causes of blindness and skin disease in Africa
  • Brugia malayia – a frequent cause of pathologically swollen limbs in Africa and Asia
  • Babesia microti – a tick-borne disease of Africa, Asia, and the USA
  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria—which are plaguing the entire world

MMV challenge grantees:

  1. Dr Fabrice Boyom, University of Yaoundé, Cameroon: “Better drugs for toxoplasmosis: hit-to-lead studies for confirmed MMV screening hits”  
  2. Dr Asif Mohmmed, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Dehli, India: “Anti-malarial potential of compounds targeting prokaryotic ClpQ protease in Plasmodium” 
  3. Dr Lubbe Wiesner, University of Cape Town, South Africa “Humanised mouse model to investigate in vivo efficacy of antimalarial compounds against P. falciparum
  4. Dr Hamisi Malebo, National Institute for Medical Research, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, “In vivo screening and development of prophylactic-transmission blocking agents from the Malaria Box hit compounds and their derivatives for the control of malaria, schistosomiasis and filariasis” 
  5. Dr Ikuo Igashari, National Research Center for Protozoan Diseases (NRCPD), Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (OUAVM), Inada-Cho, Hokkaido, Japan  “Study on in vivo inhibitory effects of the potent drugs from Open Access Malaria Box against Babesia microti and B. rodhaini in mice.”
  6. Dr Jake Baum, Imperial College London, UK: “Gametocyte‐sterilizing compounds as effective transmission‐blocking drugs”
  7. Dr Stephen Baker, Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, “Screening for Antibacterials in the Biofocus 250K Library”.