Governor-General visits Griffith for update on malaria vaccine trial

The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), got first-hand insights into the world’s first human clinical trials of a whole parasite blood-stage malaria vaccine when he visited theInstitute for Glycomics.

In what wasone of his last duties before retiring in March, General Cosgrove wasgivena tour and updates on the trial of a whole parasite blood-stage malaria vaccine in human volunteers that has yielded safe and immunogenic outcomes.

The study team comprises staff from Griffith University and clinicians at Gold Coast Health, and fundraising efforts by Rotary has enabled the trial to continue.

Professor Michael Good AO and Senior Research Fellow Danielle Stanisic have been developing this novel malaria vaccine since 2010.

A single dose of the trial vaccine was administered to volunteers at Griffith’s Clinical Trial Unit who were healthy, malarial-naïve males aged 18-60 and it induced a broad parasite-specific cellular immune response that recognised different malaria parasites and did not adversely affect the volunteers.

“We are hopeful that the immune response induced by the vaccine would be able to kill the parasite if recipients were exposed to the parasite out in the field,” Dr Stanisic said.

The next stage in the malaria vaccine trial process is to determine if the immune response from the vaccine can actually kill the parasites in humans as it has been shown to do in laboratory animals.

Once it has been established that it is safe and effective in human volunteers, the vaccine would be trialed in a malaria-endemic area then across multiple sites in multiple countries.

Professor Good expressed great thanks to the volunteers and praised the hard work of the team over many years to get to this point.

“It is wonderful to have the community so much behind this important project. We all realise what a devastating disease malaria is for so many people around the world,” he said.

Prof Mark von Itzstein, Director of the Institute for Glycomics is delighted with this significant milestone in the development of the world’s first blood stage malaria vaccine.

“This is a tremendous advance in the development of a blood stage malaria vaccine and as the Director of the Institute, I am thrilled to see this very important study now published” Prof von Itzstein said.

There are approximately 3.2 billion people living in malaria endemic countries worldwide and of the 500,000 sufferers who die each year, 80 per cent are young children who are not strong enough to fight off the killer parasite.

This project is being enabled by the Malaria Vaccine Project, which is a partnership between Rotary District 9640 and the Institute for Glycomics that aims to raise funds to support the clinical trial.

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