MVI's R&D strategy supports the long-term goal of eradicating malaria.
Building on our work to develop vaccines targeting illness and death, we are also targeting development of vaccines that would go beyond preventing illness to preventing infection and transmission of the malaria parasite. Across our portfolio, we partner with academic and nonprofit research groups, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, and US government agencies.
Looking to the next five years, MVI will focus on two priority areas:
- Anti-infection vaccines (AIVs), which are meant to prevent infection in people bitten by infected mosquitoes.
- Transmission-blocking vaccines (TBVs), which aim to prevent mosquitoes from becoming infected with malaria parasites when they feed on infected people.
These two approaches target key points in the life cycle of the malaria parasite—when the parasite transitions between the mosquito and human host and parasite numbers are low. MVI aims to declare at least one product development candidate targeting either parasite transmission or prevention of infection by the end of 2020.
The AIV approach is supported by the concept that immunization will provide durable, direct clinical benefit to the person immunized, and if sufficiently high vaccine coverage levels are achieved, benefit could also accrue to the wider community through a reduction in transmission of the parasite to unsustainable levels.
The TBV approach would not provide direct and immediate benefit to the immunized person. However, broad implementation, across a community, would reduce the number of mosquitoes carrying the parasite and thus the number of people in a community who are infected.
In addition to providing direct support for vaccine development, we invest in evaluation technologies to assess the potential efficacy of vaccine components. We also define acceptable vaccine product characteristics by developing target product profiles for vaccine candidates.
Most new projects come to us as preclinical feasibility studies, advancing to later stages of development only if the data generated warrant it. We support dozens of feasibility studies, but perhaps only a half-dozen vaccine approaches are in human testing at any one time. Increasingly, however, we also support efforts to identify and validate new targets for vaccine development to ensure a robust and diverse vaccine development pipeline.
Our R&D strategy focuses primarily on Plasmodium falciparum, the most destructive malaria parasite, which is found mainly in Africa. However, we continue to explore opportunities to develop vaccines against Plasmodium vivax, which causes a less severe—but more widespread—form of malaria.