International research partnership and EDCTP to invest €44m in next-generation antimalarials to combat drug-resistant malaria in Africa

03 Mar 2020

The European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) awarded a new grant to the new PAMAfrica research consortium led by Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). The consortium will support the development of new treatments for malaria in the most-at-risk populations, including babies, patients with severe malaria, and those with drug-resistant infections. The EDCTP grant of €21.9 million is to be matched by funding from MMV, Novartis and partners. Over a period of 5 years, the grant will support the development of a portfolio of projects executed under the umbrella of the PAMAfrica research consortium. Clinical trial capabilities in Africa will also be strengthened to ensure each site involved can effectively operate to ICH-GCP regulatory standards. The consortium includes seven research organizations from Burkina Faso, Gabon, Germany, Mozambique, Spain and Uganda. In addition to Novartis, other pharmaceutical company partners may join the consortium.

The PAMAfrica research consortium will conduct three clinical trials, supporting efforts to build clinical capacity and train scientists across Africa. One trial will explore new combinations of compounds, including new chemical classes, for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in adults and children. These compounds are all known to be fully active against all drug-resistant strains, including the artemisinin-resistant Kelch13 strains. The second trial will evaluate a new generation, rapid-acting treatment for severe malaria, cipargamin, also known as KAE609, which is being developed by Novartis, supported by a grant from the Wellcome Trust. In the third study, a novel formulation/ratio from Novartis of the current gold standard treatment artemether-lumefantrine will be tested in newborn infants weighing less than 5 kg or who are malnourished.

Dr Timothy Wells, Chief Scientific Officer of MMV and the coordinator of the PAMAfrica group, said: “All three of these research projects address areas of urgent need in malaria treatment. Antimalarial drug resistance, originally seen in Southeast Asia, is being reported in Africa and may threaten current treatments. It is important to have new therapies that are active against this emerging threat of resistance. The work on newborn infants and in severe malaria is groundbreaking in bringing medicines to this neglected group. Thanks to this critical support from EDCTP we are not only able to bring together the necessary African and European expertise to conduct these projects to address unmet needs, but in doing so, we are also able to support the training and development of the next-generation of leaders in clinical malaria research in Africa.”

Dr Michael Makanga, Executive Director of EDCTP, said: “Malaria continues needlessly to take 405,000 lives a year and must remain a global and national priority in endemic countries. We hope our funding for PAMAfrica will contribute to the development of successful new treatments that will support malaria eradication, while supporting the development of African research capacity.”

Caroline Boulton, Global Program Head, Malaria, Novartis, said: “Despite advances in malaria control, we still have a long way to go. New antimalarials are urgently needed to tackle rising parasite resistance to current therapies. In response, Novartis has committed to advance research and development of a number of next-generation antimalarial treatments. Partnerships play a critical role in helping to bring these novel agents forward and we sincerely appreciate the crucial support of EDCTP to this process.”