EDCTP invests €18 million in evaluation of candidate malaria vaccine portfolio
4 October 2019
EDCTP awarded a grant of EUR 18 million to an international consortium to evaluate a portfolio of three innovative candidate malaria vaccines that aim to block transmission of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. The PfTBV consortium is coordinated by Dr Issaka Sagara from the University of Sciences, Techniques and Technologies in Bamako, Mali, with research sites in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Liberia and Mali. Two vaccines were developed by the Statens Serum Institute (SSI, Denmark), the third has been developed and will be produced through the National Institutes of Health in the US which also contributes a large financial investment. Additional co-funding is received from PATH in the US.
“We are proud to support this innovative international portfolio of studies. Three aspects of this grant are very gratifying. First, with a targeted call, we’re able to support a flexible R&D portfolio approach aimed at selecting the most promising malaria vaccine from several candidates. Secondly, these investigational vaccines are exploring alternative targets compared to the other investigational vaccines by blocking transmission of the malaria parasite from the mosquito. Thirdly, the research consortium amply demonstrates the value and quality of vaccine research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa while further expanding that capacity.”
Dr Michel Makanga, EDCTP Executive Director
A new strategy: eliminating the parasite in the mosquito and thus block the spread of malaria
The research behind the project has adopted a new strategy. Usually, the focus is on killing the malaria parasite in infected individuals. In the new approach, the aim is to kill the parasite in the mosquito and thus stop the transmission of the infection from one individual to another. This vaccination strategy is called “transmission-blocking”. From a numerical point of view, it is attractive to target the parasite in the mosquito. An infected mosquito carries around 100 malaria parasites as opposed to billions in an infected human.
Professor Michael Theisen from SSI explains: “The chance of success is far larger if you target the mosquito. When the mosquito bites a person who has been vaccinated, it will collect vaccine-specific antibodies which prevents parasite development and ultimately leads to parasite death. In the future, we hope to combine a vaccine that blocks the transmission of malaria, with a vaccine that provides personal protection”.
During the project, the three vaccines will be compared in various clinical trials and the most promising one will be taken forward to large scale testing in Mali, Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Guinea. The Controlled Human Malaria Infection (CHMI) model will be employed for evaluating malaria transmission. The project aims to advance the understanding of mechanisms of reactogenicity, immunogenicity and efficacy of a transmission-blocking vaccine.
“On behalf of my PfTBV consortium colleagues, I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to conduct this trial of innovative candidate malaria vaccines. If it succeeds, this promising technology will definitively revolutionise the fight against malaria, which is still a heavy burden on populations of endemic countries. We welcome and value this North-South cooperation and are fully committed to successfully conducting the various clinical trials.”
Dr Issaka Sagara, Study coordinator, Univ. of Sciences, Techniques and Technologies, Bamako, Mali
The consortium will establish a biobank of clinical samples at each African institution involved for future studies. Moreover, the project has major further components of capacity building. It reinforces the existing infrastructure at leading research centres, provides (degree) training to enhance human capacity for clinical trials research, and facilitates networking and knowledge/technology transfer. Finally, it will foster a regional approach to collaborative trials among national research and regulatory bodies.
PfTBV Project details
The project started in January of this year and runs until mid-2024. It is funded by EDCTP under the 2018 Call ‘Strategic action for the comparison, selection and development of malaria vaccine candidates’. This call supports large-scale strategic actions (clinical research) that are part of a bigger portfolio of clinical trials with the capacity to compare and select the most promising malaria vaccine candidates and manage their progress through clinical development.
The title of the project is ‘Rapid evaluation of Plasmodium falciparum transmission-blocking vaccine (PfTBV) candidates through enhanced African resource centres (ARC) for integration into malaria control and elimination’. The study is coordinated by Dr Issaka Sagara of the Université des Sciences, des Techniques et des Technologies de Bamako (USTTB), Bamako, Mali with the following partners:
The EDCTP grant identifier is RIA2018SV-2311. Dr Michelle Helinski is the EDCTP Project Officer involved in the study.