ONE of Australia’s most esteemed research institutes is leading the way in its quest to develop a safe, effective and low-cost universal malaria vaccine that could save hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide.
Professor Louis Schofield, Director of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University, is collaborating with DMTC Limited (formerly the Defence Materials Technology Centre), Townsville University Hospital and Glycosyn, to produce the vaccine.
“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,” Professor Schofield said.
“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.
“Malaria is the world’s most deadly tropical parasitic disease – it has killed more people than any other communicable disease, except possibly tuberculosis.
“Both diseases are serious problems in neighbouring countries in the Indo-Pacific.”
The former co-founder of Ancora Pharmaceuticals and an International Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Prof. Schofield is a recognised authority in the immunology and pathogenesis of infectious diseases.
He said this new vaccine project was focused 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.
In addition to progressing what we hope will be a medicine that could have a significant global impact in combating malaria, the project’s second aim is to establish a high-quality manufacturing capability for biotechnology products which meets stringent government standards.
“The Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine and JCU are committed to developing and supporting the Australian biotech manufacturing industry.
“Australia has limited vaccine development capability, and this project will help to further develop Australia’s capability to produce 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,” Professor Schofield said.
The project is being managed under DMTC’s national Medical Countermeasures Initiative, a whole of government effort to develop Australian vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to protect against bio-warfare threats, infectious diseases and pandemics. DMTC’s involvement reflects the risk that diseases like malaria continue to pose to defence personnel deployed in tropical regions overseas.
Professor Schofield said the Institute had built a strong position to carry out the program.
“Once the vaccine is proven safe in volunteers, the next stage will be to confirm its efficacy in preventing malaria.
The Adelaide manufacturing site which was recently sold by Pfizer to Bridgewest Group is the contract development and manufacturing provider of the vaccine for James Cook University.
Pre-clinical toxicology work and Phase 1 of the clinical study is expected to start in early 2022.