PLOS Pathogens publishes the Malaria Box findings

Research on 400 malaria compounds reveals activity in other diseases, catalysing over ten new drug discovery projects 

28 Jul 2016

Today, the complete dataset on 236 screens of the Malaria Box compounds has been published in PLOS Pathogens. The majority of the data are new, but the article also provides a meta-analysis of all available data to-date.

MMV’s open access Malaria Box was launched in 2011 in a bid to catalyse malaria and neglected disease drug discovery. The box, containing 400 compounds with activity against malaria, was made available to researchers upon request, free of charge, until December 2015. Around 200 research groups from around the world received the Malaria Box. In return, the researchers were asked to share their findings in the public domain. MMV also provided advice on request and in some cases facilitated studies.

This published dataset on the Malaria Box compounds represents the combined effort of over 180 researchers coordinated by MMV. It reveals the immense potential of the compounds as starting points for drug discovery programmes and valuable tools for biological studies. The integration of multiple screens using the same compounds enables quick selection of those with the most potential.

The data demonstrate the activity of the compounds against other pathogens including other protozoa, helminths, bacterial and mycobacterial species, the dengue fever mosquito vector, and cancer, as well as suggested mechanisms of action against malaria for 135 of the compounds. As a result, over ten new drug discovery programmes have been initiated in laboratories around the world.  

“The Malaria Box was an experiment,” said Dr Timothy Wells, MMV’s Chief Scientific Officer. “And it has surpassed our expectations. Never before has such an open initiative been undertaken in the field of neglected diseases. If there’s one thing that drug discovery researchers sorely lack is access to physical compounds, and we at MMV together with our partners, decided to provide them for free in the form of the Malaria Box. The complete dataset in this publication represents the culmination of 5 years of preparatory work and actual research on these 400 compounds. The researchers have found hits against different bacteria and parasites, and even cancer, and we wish them all the best as they take them through the drug development process.”   

Based on the success of the Malaria Box, MMV was awarded a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a follow-on project, the Pathogen Box. This box, which was launched in 2015, also contains 400 molecules for distribution for free on request, but this time the compounds have activity against one of several pathogens that cause some of the most neglected diseases on the planet.