US NIH grants MMV over USD 5 mn for malaria research

First-ever grant received from the US NIH by MMV

06 Sep 2007

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), has granted Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) more than USD 5 mn to be disbursed over 5 years for research that focuses on inhibiting an enzyme, dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH) that is essential for the malaria parasite to survive. The goal of this cooperative agreement is to find a compound that inhibits this enzyme, and develop it into a new antimalarial drug that can be entered into clinical trials.

Under the leadership of Dr Meg Phillips, Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the proposed work plan for the DHODH project encompasses an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach, bringing together the expertise of three laboratories: Biochemistry and structural biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Phillips lab); Medicinal chemistry and malaria biology at the University of Washington (Seattle) (Rathod lab); and lead optimization and pre-clinical development progression at Monash University in Melbourne (Charman lab). MMV has a well-established target product profile for drug development candidates for malaria, and these criteria will inform the work plan to develop DHODH inhibitors as novel antimalarials.

‘This is the first-ever grant received from the US NIH by MMV and will be a shot in the arm for continued research on this early discovery project. The grant will be used to study and to design a clinical development candidate that is a potent and selective inhibitor of DHODH,’ stated Dr Ian Bathurst, MMV’s Director of Drug Discovery and Technology and the Principal Investigator on this project.

There is an urgent need for new drugs in the fight against malaria. Currently used medicines such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine are increasingly ineffective due to growing parasite resistance. This resistance contributes to the more than one million deaths from malaria each year. Artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) are the only effective treatment at present, recommended as first-line treatment, but even this medicine is often inaccessible to those who most need malaria treatment, especially in poor and vulnerable communities in developing countries. Each new chemical compound must go through a lengthy development process and the chances of it emerging as a new safe, effective, and affordable drug are slim. However, research must continue if the 500 million people affected by malaria are to have a choice of treatments.

For further information please contact:
Jaya Banerji