James Cook University is leading a project to develop a safe, effective and low-cost universal malaria vaccine that could protect our troops overseas and save hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide.
Professor Louis Schofield, Director of JCU’s Australian Institute for Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) said JCU is collaborating with DMTC Ltd (formerly the Defence Materials Technology Centre), Townsville University Hospital, Glycosyn and Pfizer Hospira to produce the vaccine.
Professor Schofield said malaria kills about 400,000 people around the world each year and is a significant health threat to Australian Defence Force personnel deployed in tropical regions overseas.
“There is currently no vaccine that is protective against all strains, species and life-cycle stages of malaria and that can prevent both infection and disease transmission.
“We are delighted to partner with DMTC in the manufacturing and clinical stage development of a universal malaria vaccine. If successful this project may solve a massive global problem which is also a key national security health risk,” he said.
The project focuses on the development of GPIVax, a carbohydrate-based malaria vaccine candidate that shows strong pre-clinical effectiveness across all species, strains and life cycle stages of malaria tested to date.
JCU will be responsible for pre-clinical toxicology work and a Phase 1 clinical study.
Australia has limited vaccine development capability and the project’s second aim is to establish a high-quality manufacturing capability for biotechnology products which meets stringent government standards.
“AITHM and JCU are committed to developing and supporting the Australian biotech manufacturing industry. This will aid in developing high value products such as vaccines, which otherwise would have to be sourced and imported from overseas. This project is particularly suited for commercial development through local biotech,” said Professor Schofield.
The project will be managed under DMTC’s national Medical Countermeasures Initiative, a whole of government effort to develop Australian vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics against biowarfare threats, infectious diseases and pandemics.
Professor Schofield said AITHM has built a strong position over many years to carry out the program.
“Once the vaccine is proven safe in volunteers, the next stage will be to test its efficacy in preventing malaria. We have close ties to scientists and physicians in near neighbouring countries where malaria remains a huge problem and who will collaborate in testing the vaccine in those settings.”