Nav: Home

New grant boosts UC San Diego-led malaria research program

February 17, 2017

An international research team, led by principal investigator Elizabeth A. Winzeler, PhD, professor in the pediatric division of host-microbe systems and therapeutics at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues have received a three-year, $4.7 million supplemental grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance their development of improved therapies for malaria eradication and elimination.

"The very long term goals are to accelerate the development of novel treatments and preventative medicines that can be used to assist with malaria eradication and elimination, and which can serve as replacements for current drugs that are losing efficacy," said Elizabeth Winzeler, PhD, professor of pharmacology and drug discovery at UC San Diego School of Medicine and the grant's lead scientist.

"The grant will support a multinational consortium, with leadership at UC San Diego, which aims to speed antimalarial drug development. The objective of the consortium, which initially included the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Columbia University, GlaxoSmith Kline and Washington University, is to systematically look for drug-able proteins encoded by the parasite's genome, primarily using in vitro evolution and whole genome sequencing."

Malaria is a global scourge. Roughly half of the world's population live in areas at risk of malaria transmission. In 2015, according to the World Health Organization, more than 214 million clinical cases of malarial infection were reported, with 438,000 deaths. The vast majority of deaths occur in Africa, killing children.

Winzeler and colleagues have focused their efforts upon disease-causing Plasmodium parasites that infect Anopheles mosquitoes, which then transmit the parasite to humans through their bite. While prevention and treatment of malaria has significantly advanced, the parasites themselves remain an elusive target.

The parasites' life-cycle complicates the problem. Most current drugs are effective at only certain stages of parasite development, allowing infections to recur. The only licensed antimalarial drug capable of fully cleansing an infection and eliminating the possibility of relapse can have serious, life-threatening side effects. And the parasites tend to quickly evolve resistance to drugs used against them.

In 2012, the Gates Foundation awarded Winzeler and colleagues a four-year, $3.5 million grant to develop new antimalarial compounds less likely to provoke resistance compared to existing drugs. The supplemental grant is intended to advance and broaden the scope of work, and includes new research partners, such as Pennsylvania State University and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom.

Winzeler said the past three years have been productive. Researchers have produced the most comprehensive study of malaria parasite drug resistance to date, created more than 200 drug-resistant laboratory clones of the P. falciparum parasite against which to test potentially therapeutic small molecule compounds and identified 12 new targets for anti-malarial drug discovery and development; developed a robust bioinformatics pipeline through which researchers can share data and findings; discovered new alleles (alternative forms) in known drug-resistant parasite genes and discovered new drug-resistant genes.
-end-


University of California - San Diego

Related Malaria Articles:

Breakthrough in malaria research
An international scientific consortium led by the cell biologists Volker Heussler from the University of Bern and Oliver Billker from the Umeå University in Sweden has for the first time systematically investigated the genome of the malaria parasite Plasmodium throughout its life cycle in a large-scale experiment.
Scientists close in on malaria vaccine
Scientists have taken another big step forward towards developing a vaccine that's effective against the most severe forms of malaria.
New tool in fight against malaria
Modifying a class of molecules originally developed to treat the skin disease psoriasis could lead to a new malaria drug that is effective against malaria parasites resistant to currently available drugs.
Malaria expert warns of need for malaria drug to treat severe cases in US
The US each year sees more than 1,500 cases of malaria, and currently there is limited access to an intravenously administered (IV) drug needed for the more serious cases.
Monkey malaria breakthrough offers cure for relapsing malaria
A breakthrough in monkey malaria research by two University of Otago scientists could help scientists diagnose and treat a relapsing form of human malaria.
Getting to zero malaria cases in zanzibar
New research led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Ifakara Health Institute and the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program suggests that a better understanding of human behavior at night -- when malaria mosquitoes are biting -- could be key to preventing lingering cases.
Widely used malaria treatment to prevent malaria in pregnant women
A global team of researchers, led by a research team at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), are calling for a review of drug-based strategies used to prevent malaria infections in pregnant women, in areas where there is widespread resistance to existing antimalarial medicines.
Protection against Malaria: A matter of balance
A balanced production of pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines at two years of age protects against clinical malaria in early childhood, according to a study led by ISGlobal, an institution supported by ''la Caixa'' Foundation.
The math of malaria
A new mathematical model for malaria shows how competition between parasite strains within a human host reduces the odds of drug resistance developing in a high-transmission setting.
Free malaria tests coupled with diagnosis-dependent vouchers for over-the-counter malaria treatment
Coupling free diagnostic tests for malaria with discounts on artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) when malaria is diagnosed can improve the rational use of ACTs and boost testing rates, according to a cluster-randomized trial published this week in PLOS Medicine by Wendy Prudhomme O'Meara of Duke University, USA, and colleagues.
More Malaria News and Malaria Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.