Malaria drug discovery attracts global attention

Groundbreaking work by the University of Cape Town’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre‚ H3D‚ in the research and development of a potential single-dose cure for malaria‚ has attracted international interest‚ funding and scientists from around the world.

This work has already had a major impact beyond malaria‚ said H3D founder and director‚ Prof Kelly Chibale.

“The project on malaria has been critical. Through it‚ we’ve attracted big pharmaceutical companies‚ funding and scientists. We’re becoming a world-class one-stop shop for drug discovery.”

MMV048‚ the promising new compound researched by an international team led by H3D and selected for development in 2012‚ has been highly successful in curing malaria in preclinical studies and may be able to block transmission to humans and contribute to the eradication of malaria.

“We are fortunate to have found a drug that could advance to the clinic. We hope that it will get through the trials‚ but the most important thing is that we have learnt so much. We can conduct similar research and development again and again for other diseases‚ both communicable and non-communicable. We’ve been able to create infrastructure that benefits other programmes‚” said Chibale.

H3D’s malaria programme is being conducted in collaboration with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)‚ a not-for-profit drug development foundation based in Geneva‚ Switzerland.

“Malaria drug development is not an easy task — it takes research and development excellence‚ cutting-edge facilities and commitment; H3D has all three‚” said Dr Tim Wells‚ chief scientific officer of MMV.”

Chibale said H3D’s successful experience in the field of malaria had attracted a range of local and global partners as well as foreign direct investment‚ while scientists from the USA‚ Europe‚ India and Africa had joined H3D since the breakthrough was announced.

Since 2000‚ efforts of the global malaria community have succeeded in reducing the number of deaths from malaria by 47%. This has largely been due to the use of bednets‚ indoor residual spraying and artemisinin-based combination therapies.

The World Health Organisation’s World Malaria Report 2014 reported nearly 200 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2013. Just over half a million people died from malaria that year‚ most of them children and 90% of them in Africa.




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