New Zealand and the United States work together to develop new anti-malaria drug

Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments
New Zealand and the United States work together to develop new anti-malaria drug

An anti-malarial compound first synthesized in New Zealand has passed first stage trials.

13 April 2012 | An anti-malarial compound that was first synthesized by New Zealand’s Industrial Research Limited and developed in collaboration with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the United States has successfully passed the first stage of a preclinical efficacy study.

An anti-malarial compound first synthesized in New Zealand has passed first stage trials.
A mosquito-borne infectious disease that results from red-blood cells being overrun by parasites of the Plasmodium genus, malaria kills about one million people annually.

“About 90 per cent of all deaths worldwide are caused by the protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum,” says Principal Scientist Dr Gary Evans from IRL’s Carbohydrate Chemistry group.

“Early efficacy trials have shown that BCX4945 clears the parasite responsible for malaria within seven days,” he says.

“The project was led by Professor Vern Schramm from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a long-time collaborator with the IRL Carbohydrate Chemistry group,” Dr Evans says.

At present there is no long-term vaccine for malaria and although different treatments are available, the parasite often becomes resistant or immune to them.

The positive trial results give hope that BCX4945 might become a valuable addition to the existing arsenal currently used in the treatment of the disease.

“The parasite is relatively unusual in that it’s a purine auxotroph, meaning that it sources organic compounds known as purines from its host,” Dr Evans says.

The new drug blocks the enzyme used by the parasite to harvest these compounds and so the parasite can no longer multiply and overwhelm the host’s immune system.

“It’s a numbers game – they build millions of themselves,” Dr Evans says. “If you keep that number small then the host immune system can simply manage the infection.”

“The initial discovery of BCX4945 was achieved by IRL’s Carbohydrate Chemistry group but further development has been an excellent example of scientific and industrial collaboration.”

Early aspects of the study were funded by Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), a non-profit foundation created to discover, develop and deliver new, affordable anti-malarial drugs through effective public-private partnerships.

Professor Schramm has managed the overall project, which is being carried out by a multi-disciplinary team from the following organizations:

IRL Carbohydrate Chemistry Group, Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Department of Biochemistry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, Bronx, NY, United States
Tropical Medicine Research, Malaria Drug and Vaccine Evaluation Center, Gorgas Memorial Institute of Health Studies, Panama City, Panama
Waters Corporation, Parsippany, NJ, United States
BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc, Birmingham, AL, United States

“We licensed BCX4945 to BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in the USA, but our main point of contact is the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University,” Dr Evans says.

While the results are positive there is still much to be done before the drug can be used in the field, possibly as part of a combination therapy, for the treatment of malaria.