Malaria vaccine warrants more local support

Malaria vaccine warrants more local support

25 Aug 2008

With about 400,000 clinical cases and up to two million deaths annually, malaria remains a major scourge on humanity that demands increased efforts for protection. But a leading malaria researcher, Professor Robin Anders, writes in the September issue of 'Australasian Science' magazine, published today:

"While Australian scientists have contributed to the science behind the development of a malaria vaccine, there is insufficient local support for the clinical development of promising vaccines".

Professor Anders has been researching malaria for three decades, and has been involved in the development of a vaccine that reduced parasite densities in Papua New Guinean children. He is now working in the Biochemistry Department at La Trobe University.

Outlining challenges due to the complexity of malaria parasites, he says an improved form of the vaccine that tested promisingly in Papua New Guinea is unlikely to be tested in the field for several years.

"Other potential malaria vaccines under development in Australia are even further from … field trials.

"Developing new vaccines beyond the early preclinical stage is usually driven by potential returns to the pharmaceutical industry. As malaria is a disease of the rural poor in developing countries, investment in malaria vaccines is not attractive commercially. But industry involvement is essential for producing the vaccines to test in clinical trials.

"Malaria vaccine development has been largely driven by academic researchers interested in a particular antigen or delivery strategy, resulting in a fragmented approach. In Australia this has also led to a lack of institutional support for the clinical phase of these complex research and development programs.

"The global progress of the past two decades has convinced most scientists that a malaria vaccine is possible. But it is unfortunate that Australian scientists will probably not play a significant role in determining whether the use of asexual blood-stage antigens can provide protection in the field and/or provide increased efficacy when combined with the promising vaccine [known as] RTS,S."

Contact

Professor Robin Anders

Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering

For full details see 'Australasian Science' magazine.

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