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Boost for Malaria Vaccine Development by Combining Strengths of Dutch and American Researchers
Date:1/16/2008

LEIDEN, The Netherlands, January 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Today Top Institute Pharma announces a highly promising research project that is aimed at the development of a malaria vaccine. This TI Pharma project will be an expansion of important findings from previous studies. The project aims to develop a highly protective malaria vaccine that would save the lives of millions of people in developing countries, especially infants and children. No malaria vaccine is currently commercially available, despite several decades of research. Multiple drugs have been developed to treat malaria infections. However, increasing numbers of both drug-resistant parasites and insecticide-resistant mosquitoes make the fight against malaria more and more difficult. As a result an efficacious vaccine is urgently needed. The United Nations recognizes this urgency and has made limiting malaria by 2015 a millennium goal.

The TI Pharma project has a budget of 16 million Euros ($US 23.6 million) over 4 years and will be carried out by a consortium that includes the American biotechnology company Sanaria Inc. of Rockville, Maryland, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre and Leiden University Medical Center. Sanaria Inc. is exclusively dedicated to the production of a vaccine against malaria.

Malaria is one of the most prevalent infections in tropical and subtropical areas. The disease is caused by mosquito-transmitted protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Each year, malaria affects at least 300 million and kills at least 1 million people, principally in developing countries. Plasmodium falciparum infection produces the most lethal form of the disease and accounts for the majority of deaths.

Stephen Hoffman, CEO of Sanaria Inc. explains, "Humans are infected when malaria parasites are introduced by the bite of mosquitoes carrying these parasites. The illness results from the growth of the parasite in the blood. Sanaria's primary vaccine candidate is composed of parasites treated with radiation, which renders the parasites unable to cause disease, but able to trigger a high, long-lasting degree of protection against malaria in the recipient."

According to Prof. Robert Sauerwein of Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre and principal investigator and coordinator of this project, Sanaria's methods for vaccine production are based on exceptional technological advances. The clinical tests will take place in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Sauerwein: "The research being carried out by the groups at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre and Leiden University Medical Center (research led by Dr. Chris Janse) will add a powerful new tool to the approach of rendering the parasite harmless, or attenuated. As opposed to weakening the parasites by radiation we wish to weaken them by genetically modifying them, leading to a similar result: an effective protection against malaria for humans."

Daan Crommelin, scientific director of TI Pharma states that this project will make a difference. "An effective malaria vaccine is important for millions of people in developing countries, especially for infants and children. Therefore this is a very important project based on the WHO Priority Medicines Program, in which malaria is specifically prioritized. With this unique cooperation between a front-running company such as Sanaria Inc. and two excellent Dutch medical centers, both leaders in the field, we expect major steps in the fight against malaria."

About Sanaria

Sanaria Inc. was founded in 2003. The company's primary mission is to develop and commercialize a malaria sporozoite vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for more than 95 percent of malaria associated severe illness and death world-wide, and the malaria parasite for which there is the most significant drug resistance. Sanaria has overcome the initial technological and regulatory barriers and launched a clinical manufacturing facility with support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the U.S. Army Military Infectious Diseases Research Program, the Institute for OneWorld Health, and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. Sanaria's facilities are in Rockville, MD. For more information see http://www.sanaria.com.

About TI Pharma

Within TI Pharma, consortia of industrial and academic research teams conduct groundbreaking, cross-disciplinary research projects that fit into the Priority Medicines program of the WHO. Each year, the Dutch government funds the top institute to a tune of 30 million Euros. The pharmaceutical industry and academia each contribute an additional 15 million Euros per year. TI Pharma is becoming an international leader in (bio)pharmaceutical research, training and education. TI Pharma's fellows are trained in understanding the intricacies of the entire drug R&D process. See http://www.tipharma.com.

About Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre

Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre (http://www.umcn.nl) is a leading academic centre with expertise in medical science and healthcare. Expertise plays an essential part in our organisation and connects research, education and patient care. Our more than 8,500 staff and 3,000 students are committed and ambitious, helping to shape the future of healthcare and medical science. Driven by knowledge, empowered by people.

About Leiden University Medical Center

Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) is strongly committed to the advancement of health care, through research and innovation. In particular, the focus is on translational research, with the overall aim to accelerate findings from the laboratory to clinical application, and to the market. LUMC has a reputation as a pioneering institute, both nationally and internationally. See http://www.lumc.nl


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SOURCE TI Pharma
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