Griffith University researchers are tackling the enormous global health problem of malaria through innovative approaches to develop new vaccine and drug candidates.

At Griffith’s two leading biomedical research institutes — the Institute for Glycomics and the Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery — research teams are firmly focused on, and are making progress towards the global goal of malaria elimination.

This major research focus from Griffith University is a timely reminder with World Malaria Day being marked on April 25. Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites and transmitted by certain species of mosquito found in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

About half the worlds’ population is at risk of malaria and in 2015 the World Health Organization reported that 438,000 people died of this disease, mainly children under five years of age.

Institute for Glycomics malaria vaccine research team have just finished clinical trials conducted at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus this year and have been working closely with expert infectious disease clinicians at Gold Coast University Hospital. This is the second round of clinical trials to be conducted by the Institute for Glycomics to examine malaria vaccine strategies in humans.

Professor Michael Good.

Professor Michael Good.

Malaria vaccine team leader Professor Michael Good said in order to achieve malaria elimination his team needs to think differently in their approach to research.

“To develop new vaccines, new drugs and new ways to deliver these therapies and to monitor their effects,” he said.

Associate Professor Dr Kathy Andrews

Associate Professor Dr Kathy Andrews

Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery Associate Professor Dr Kathy Andrews and her team are working with Australia’s CSIRO and the international Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) organization to develop new drugs to prevent malaria.

The importance of this work was recognised through award of almost$1.2million in National Health and Medical Research Council funding beginning in 2016.

“In the past decade, the number of deaths due to malaria has more than halved, however now more than ever we need to ensure that this momentum is maintained,” Associate Professor Andrews said.

“It is essential that we develop next generation therapies for malaria if we are going to achieve elimination.”

Professor Vicky Avery

Professor Vicky Avery

Professor Vicky Avery, also from Eskitis, and her research group have played a significant role in the identification and development of new clinical candidates including MMV39048; ELQ300; SJ733: DSM 265 and DDD498.

Utilising highly sophisticated image based assays spanning the plasmodium life cycle which her team has developed, millions of compounds have been screened during the past 10 years in collaboration with MMV, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and numerous industry partners.

“It is highly rewarding to see these candidate anti-malarials, which we were involved with in someway throughout their development, now entering clinical trials. It definitely makes it all worthwhile and highlights the incredible expertise we have here at Griffith,” she said.

Griffith University is ranked as one of Australia’s most comprehensive research and teaching universities. In October 2015 it was named among the world’s top 300 universities in the Times Higher Education World Rankings for 2015-2016 which includes research as a performance indicator.

Eskitis will host a morning tea to raise awareness of malaria and to highlight their malaria research on Tuesday, 26 April at 9am at the Institute on Don Young Road, Brisbane. Email [email protected] if you would like to attend.