19 new malaria drug targets validated since 1999

To make malaria eradication a real possibility we need medicines that do more than cure patients. Clearly, it is critical to develop curative medicines that kill the parasite replicating in the blood, but we also need medicines that target the parasite at several other stages in its lifecycle.

To complement existing blood-stage assays (that identify curative molecules), MMV and partners have developed new high-throughput assays to screen for activity at other key lifecycle stages, notably liver stages (for chemoprotection capability) and gametocyte stages (for transmission-blocking capability). In addition, we have developed assays against Plasmodium vivax liver stages (for anti-relapse activity). Active compounds that meet the Target Candidate Profiles are then selected for further research.

In support of these endeavours, in 2016, MMV established new drug discovery collaborations with support from the Government of the Netherlands. In one example, MMV is collaborating with Dutch research partners including TropIQ Health Sciences, Radboud University Medical Centre and Pansynt on a new series of targeted compounds (pantothenamides) that are active against P. falciparum.

Since 1999, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of validated drug targets for malaria; from five targets in 1999 to 26 in 2016, 19 of which were discovered with MMV’s support. Furthermore, since 2010 MMV and partners have brought 17 drug candidates into preclinical development (13 are still active). Each of the active candidates has the potential to form part of a next-generation combination medicine to support malaria eradication. Meanwhile, given the high rate of attrition in drug development, sustaining a steady stream of new candidates from drug discovery remains a priority for the future.

Updated July 2017