GlaxoSmithKline and Medicines For Malaria Venture announce new collaboration to investigate novel antimalarial compounds

Staff Writers | 28 Jan 2008
Research by the new collaboration will focus on macrolide antibiotics, based on azithromycin, which may have promise as an antimalarial treatment. Under the new agreement, MMV will provide funding for research to be performed at GSK.

Macrolide antibiotics are a well-established class of antimicrobial agents that have a significant role in the treatment of infectious diseases. The macrolide azithromycin is known to have antibacterial activity, but it has also shown some activity against malaria. The research collaboration between GSK and MMV will investigate the potential of azithromycin-based drugs to treat drug resistant malaria.

"Existing antimalarial treatments have been an important component of public health and have saved millions of lives. Despite this success, we now face the challenge of resistance to these widely used medicines, including potential resistance to artemisinin combination therapies (ACT)," said Dr. Timothy Wells, Chief Scientific Officerat the Medicines for Malaria Venture. "This collaboration with GSK capitalizes on the company's research excellence and helps meet MMV's objective of developing antimalarials that will retain their usefulness longer and enable us to help vulnerable populations at risk from malaria."

"Our agreement with MMV is part of our ongoing commitment to fighting diseases with the biggest impact on the developing world," said Dr. Patrick Vallance, Senior Vice President, GSK Drug Discovery. "We recognize that innovative alliances are an important part of meeting the challenge of treating people affected by malaria, which is why we have been actively collaborating with MMV since 2000."

Under the terms of the agreement, MMV will provide funding in order to advance the development of azithromycin-based treatments that may address resistance and side effects associated with existing antimalarial medications. Research activities thus funded will be performed in one or more GSK facilities world-wide under the joint oversight of MMV and GSK. The goal of the collaborative program is to obtain compounds with activity against P. falciparum, no antibacterial activity, good oral bioavailability and efficacy, and acceptable safety properties to ultimately select drug candidates for development.

Malaria is among the world's worst communicable diseases, causing over a million deaths each year and imposing major economic burdens on disease endemic countries. An estimated 500 million or more clinical cases of malaria occur every year. Malaria is a major killer disease in Africaand a primary cause of death and poverty - undermining development in some of the poorest countries in the world. Though the majority of the cases and approximately 90% of the malaria deaths are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, the disease is growing in Asiaand Latin America.

Although significant treatment milestones have been achieved throughout history to help manage malaria, antimalarial drugs, like all drugs for infectious diseases, have a limited useful life and eventually need replacing. This initiative brings together funds, coordination and management, coupled with areas of specific scientific and technical expertise to identify potential candidates to meet the current challenges.