Washington, DC (30 March 2017) – The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) welcomed today a grant of US$600,000 from the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT Fund), a Japanese public-private partnership, to support development of a vaccine to block malaria transmission.
Transmission-blocking vaccines (TBVs) are being developed with the goal of inducing immune responses that would block malaria parasite transmission from human to mosquito, thereby reducing the spread of infection and contributing to disease elimination within a community.
“We are grateful to the GHIT Fund for enabling us to fast-track the discovery and validation of an exciting new target for transmission-blocking malaria vaccines,” said Ashley Birkett, PhD, MVI’s director. “This type of vaccine is among the tools that will be needed to accelerate elimination and eventual eradication of malaria.”
MVI will partner with Ehime University researchers in Japan to dissect a protein called Pfs230, found on the deadly Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite, to identify regions on the protein that might produce potent antibodies able to block parasite transmission from humans to mosquitoes. While the Pfs230 protein is a well-established transmission-blocking target antigen, its usefulness has been limited by the inability to produce it due to the protein’s large size and complex structure. Ehime University offers a cutting-edge technology—the wheat germ cell-free system—to work effectively with regions of proteins such as Pfs230.
The findings from the project will be used to scale up production, using insect cells, of the most promising Pfs230 protein regions and develop them into a vaccine candidate.
Despite the successful deployment of multiple interventions against malaria, there were an estimated 212 million cases of malaria and an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths worldwide in 2015, according to the most recent figures from the World Health Organization.
According to Birkett, the availability of a TBV vaccine would represent a critical additional tool for the fight against malaria that would work in synergy with other interventions such as drugs, bed nets, and insecticide spraying. Blocking transmission of the parasite could potentially reduce the pressure on other tools by slowing the development of drug resistance and insecticide resistance, thus extending their effectiveness. Eventually, a TBV could break the cycle of parasite transmission, thereby playing a potentially important role in malaria elimination and eradication.
This is the third grant awarded to MVI by the GHIT Fund, and the second to support development of a potential transmission-blocking vaccine.
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PATH's MALARIA VACCINE INITIATIVE (MVI) accelerates malaria vaccine development and catalyzes timely access in endemic countries, toward a world free from malaria. Standing at the intersection of malaria and immunization, MVI is part of PATH’s Center for Malaria Control and Elimination and PATH’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access. Learn more at www.malariavaccine.org or http://sites.path.org/cvia/.