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Drugmaker one step closer to producing world’s first malaria vaccine

On July 24, British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced the release of new malaria vaccine known as RTS,S, to the European Medicines Agency (EMA). According to the company’s recent press release, the EMA will then assess the “quality, safety and efficacy” of the vaccine.” Reuters explains that although the shot will be assessed by EMA as well the World Health Organisation (WHO), the vaccine is anticipated to be used solely outside of the European Union.

As outlined on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all forms of human malaria are carried by female mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles, but between 30 and 40 of the 430 species defined under this genus are vectors for transmission. Furthermore the CDC identifies four particular species of Plasmodium, the genus under which malaria parasites are defined, that can infect humans.

The candidate vaccine has been developed for prevention against the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite, which according to GSK accounts approximately for 90 percent of deaths caused by malaria. The CDC accounts for the large amount of resultant from the sub-Saharan Africa-based strain due to its rapid rate of reproduction in the blood and potential to cause anemia and clog blood vessels. According to GSK, the vaccine “is designed to prevent the parasite from infecting, maturing and multiplying in the liver,” which will intervene with the parasite’s ability to then re-enter the bloodstream and infect red blood cells.

According to Reuters, final-state Phase III trial data, which was conducted at 13 African research centers, raises potential concerns as in the trial, “babies ages six to 12 weeks showed the shot provided only modest protection.”

However, if the EMA’s assessment of the new drug is positive, the WHO predicts a potential release of the drug by 2015. GSK representatives remain hopeful. According to GSK Malaria Vaccine Franchise Head Dr. Sophie Biernaux, “This is a key moment in GSK’s 30-year journey to develop RST,S and brings us a step closer to making available the world’s first vaccine that can help protect children in Africa from malaria.”