Largest grant from MMV to Australian scientists will accelerate the development of new antimalarials
The grant will be applied to the induced human infection model, an approach developed by MMV in partnership with scientists at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, led by Professor James McCarthy. This model enables testing of promising candidate antimalarial drugs in healthy volunteers inoculated with a small number of malaria parasites, without putting them at risk.
Speed and cost are critical factors in the development of new, affordable medicines for malaria. In traditional drug development, new medicines are first trialed in healthy volunteers to determine their safety (Phase I studies) then tested in patients to determine if they actually cure the disease (Phase II efficacy studies). By using the new model, preliminary efficacy can be assessed at the same time as safety, and thus significantly shorten the R&D process. Potential new drugs can be tested on fewer patients, data can be collated more quickly and at a lower cost, and the drugs can then progress to large-scale clinical trials.
“We are pleased to support the excellent team at QIMR Berghofer on this pioneering initiative for malaria drug development,” said MMV CEO Dr David Reddy. “The team is an outstanding example of Australia’s capacity to incubate new ideas and knowledge, and translate this into new tools – in this case, for the development of new medicines for malaria that will have important social and economic benefits to Australia, Asia-Pacific, and the rest of the world.”
The funds have been sourced from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and form part of an overall package of AU$15 M provided to QIMR Berghofer by MMV dating back to 2009.
The grant to QIMR is the largest grant made by MMV to Australian scientists involved in the development of antimalarial medicines. The grant will support Australian scientists working in partnership with MMV and the global malaria community.
Almost half of the world's population is at risk of malaria. Since 2000, considerable gains have been made in the fight against malaria: 6.2 million deaths have been averted. Yet major challenges remain. The disease continues to kill over half a million people a year, 75% of whom are children under five. And multidrug resistance, identified in the Greater Mekong region, threatens to spread. The challenge now is to develop novel, effective and easy to administer antimalarials that can counter this resistance and block malaria transmission.
MMV was established in 1999 as a not-for-profit research foundation. Between 1999 and 2014, MMV has contributed over AU$20 M to Australian-based malaria research, sourced from international donors.
The announcement was made in Darwin at the Northern Australia Investment Summit.