Griffith University, the Institute for Glycomics and Rotary are thrilled to announce The Honourable Anna Bligh AC will become the inaugural National Ambassador for its Malaria Vaccine Project.
Ms Bligh said malaria kills more than half a million people globally each year, and tragically, most of these deaths are young children.
“These statistics are both alarming and devastating. It’s time we took more aggressive action to help solve this global issue,” Ms Bligh said.
A team of scientists at the Institute for Glycomics, led by Professor Michael Good AO and Dr Danielle Stanisic, is developing a world-first ‘whole parasite’ blood-stage malaria vaccine which is currently in human clinical trials.
Principal Research Leader at the Institute for Glycomics Professor Good said: “The Griffith University Malaria Vaccine Project aims to develop a vaccine that induces immunity and effectively kills the malaria parasite stage that is found in the blood — it is this stage that is responsible for the pathology, morbidity and mortality of malaria.
“Our research has shown this unique vaccine approach can stimulate an immune response that offers broader protection against different malaria parasite strains and species, which is what makes it a novel vaccine design.”
In 2015, Rotary District 9640 partnered with Griffith University with a desire to support the Malaria Vaccine Project.
Professor Emeritus Graham Jones AM formed the Griffith University Rotary Malaria Vaccine Project Committee with Mrs Sandra Doumany OAM and others from Australian Rotary clubs.
Chair of the Malaria Vaccine Project Committee Professor Emeritus Graham Jones said: “Since then, Rotary has helped Griffith University raise more than $2 million in funding to progress the vaccine through early clinical trials.”
Griffith University Vice Chancellor and President Professor Carolyn Evans welcomed Ms Bligh to the passionate team of researchers and community members who are so dedicated to the fight against malaria.
“Thanks to unwavering community support, Institute for Glycomics researchers are now poised to commence a full Phase I study to assess vaccine safety and efficacy in human volunteers,” Professor Evans said.
“We are one step closer to testing our malaria vaccine candidate in areas where it is needed most and, hopefully, one step closer to a future free from the disease.”
There are six main species of malaria parasites that infect humans. Infection starts with the bite of an infected mosquito, injecting parasites that travel to the liver and reside there for a short period of time prior to emerging to infect red cells. The deadliest malaria species is Plasmodium falciparum, which is responsible for the deaths of approximately 627,000 people, mostly young children, each year. Pregnant women are also at significant risk as women lose the immunity they acquired as children when they become pregnant.
The Griffith University Malaria Vaccine Project aims to develop a vaccine that will reduce this suffering by inducing immunity that can effectively kill the malaria parasite stage found in the blood — it is this stage that is responsible for the pathology, morbidity and mortality of malaria.
The vaccine concept is novel and is based on a ‘whole parasite’ vaccine design, which results in a broad immune response that can target multiple strains of P. falciparum. All other vaccines currently in development that target the blood-stage of the parasite rely on a single protein from the parasite’s surface as their basis. Unfortunately, these have all been unsuccessful as the stimulated immune response has been sub-optimal. Additionally, the parasite proteins included in the vaccine tend to vary substantially between different parasite strains which means the antibody response stimulated by the vaccine can only protect against a proportion of parasite strains. The whole parasite vaccine approach ensures all >5,000 proteins are included in the vaccine. Griffith University researchers have shown this vaccine approach can stimulate an immune response that offers broader protection against different malaria parasite strains and species.