The research will be led by Professor Louis Schofield, director of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) at James Cook University, with colleagues at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and collaborators and institutions in the US.
The funding will enable the team of researchers from North Queensland and Victoria to develop a broad spectrum vaccine effective against most species of human malaria.
Along with HIV and tuberculosis, malaria is one of the world’s most serious infectious diseases, infecting more than five per cent of the global population and killing about 700,000 people each year. Half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting malaria, with the disease imposing a heavy burden in tropical regions, including Australia’s near neighbours.
Professor Louis Schofield, director of the AITHM and laboratory head at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said eradication of malaria would be the ultimate goal for any truly effective vaccine.
“There is an urgent need for a broadly effective vaccine to attack all strains, species and life stage of malaria,” Professor Schofield said.
“However, this is a major challenge: five malaria parasite species infect humans, and the parasites are complex and hard to target.
“Some forms infect people though the bite of a mosquito; other forms proliferate in the blood and cause disease, and yet different forms are passed from human to mosquitoes to complete the cycle. Our prototype vaccine attempts to overcome these barriers by attacking most species and stages in the malaria life cycle.”
The basic research was previously supported by a $1.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The new funding will expand preclinical development to improve the potency and efficacy of the experimental vaccine. The research team is grateful for the support of the foundation, which is vital to the next stages of this project.
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