UN-backed strategy seeks to develop powerful malaria vaccine by 2025
“Having a highly protective malaria vaccine and putting it into widespread use in affected areas would be a true achievement for public health. It would fulfill an urgent need,” the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Director of the Initiative for Vaccine Research, Marie-Paule Kieny, said of the Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap launched at the four-day Global Vaccine Research Forum in Bangkok.
“The Roadmap marks the first concerted global attempt at mapping out a shared plan of action for making a preventive malaria vaccine reality,” she added of the strategy, which seeks to develop a vaccine by 2025 with a protective efficacy of more than 80 per cent providing protection for longer than four years.
An interim goal is to develop a first-generation vaccine by 2015 with 50 per cent protective efficacy that would last longer than one year.
The Roadmap calls on scientists, funding organizations, policy experts and national and global decision-makers to work together to develop the vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly form of the malaria parasite.
It presents 11 priorities within four major areas of work that must be undertaken:
Research – standardizing procedures to compare immune responses generated by vaccine candidates, sharing data via the web to strengthen links between laboratories and clinics.
- Vaccine development – pursuing multi-antigen, multi-stage, and weakened whole-parasite vaccine approaches.
- Key capacities – establishing readily accessible formulation and scale-up development capacity, and building good clinical trial capacity in Africa and other malaria-endemic areas.
- Policy and commercialization – providing data to facilitate policy decisions, securing sustainable financing, and developing novel regulatory strategies to expedite the approval of a safe vaccine.
Every year, there are 300 to 500 million cases of malaria and more than 1 million people die, mainly African children. More than 230 experts representing 100 organizations from 35 countries collaborated to develop the Roadmap over a two-year period. Leading malaria community representatives, experts, and funders held a series of meetings to determine ways to overcome challenges facing the development of a vaccine.
These include scientific unknowns such as the lack of full understanding of mechanisms of malaria infection; disease and immunity; inadequate resources; limited private-sector involvement; and uncertain mechanisms for procuring and distributing a successful vaccine.
The development of the Roadmap was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. Others in the funders’ group include WHO, the international non-profit organization PATH, the European Commission, the United States National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).