Griffith University: Griffith University researchers lead human trials for malaria vaccine

Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics’ malaria vaccine researchers are one step closer to conducting human clinical trials for a malaria vaccine that can be freeze-dried for easy transportation to malaria endemic countries.

Announced on the five-year anniversary (March 23) of the Malaria Vaccine Project, the Phase 1 clinical trial will test the vaccine, PlasProtecT, in human volunteers in Australia to confirm its safety and efficacy.

The Malaria Vaccine Project, a joint fundraising partnership between Rotary District 9640 and Griffith University, has raised $1.34M from Australian Rotary Clubs, the Medical Research Future Fund, and generous community donors over the past five years.

Lead researcher Dr Danielle Stanisic said this whole parasite malaria vaccine was the first of its kind because it could be freeze-dried into a powder or frozen without losing its effectiveness.

“This means it can be easily deployed into malaria-endemic countries where there were an estimated 627,000 deaths due to the disease in 2020.”

Co-research lead and Laboratory Head, Professor Michael Good AO, said the approach taken with this vaccine should protect against the multitude of parasite strains circulating in the field.

He said without the support and hard work of Rotary and the members of the Malaria Vaccine Committee, chaired by Emeritus Professor Graham Jones AM, the clinical trial would not be possible.

“Further funding is still needed to test the vaccine for its effectiveness in preventing malaria infection.”

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease caused by Plasmodium parasites. It is endemic in 87 countries with more than 200 million cases each year, resulting in over 600,000 deaths, mostly children under the age of five.

Existing control strategies for the mosquito and malaria parasite are becoming increasingly less effective due to the resistance against insecticides and anti-malarial drugs.

“A highly effective malaria vaccine is urgently needed to reduce malaria disease and death and move towards the ultimate goal of eradication,’’ Professor Good said.

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