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UT Southwestern research team's anti-malarial work wins international Project of the Year award
Date:6/6/2011

osals to the organization and, if the investigative plan is accepted, their team receives funding and scientific advisory support.

"The project led by Meg Phillips quickly became a firm favorite for MMV's Project of the Year 2010," said Tim Wells, chief scientific officer for MMV. "It was impressive not only for its progress in bringing inhibitors forward for clinical testing but also for the way in which the independent international team worked together."

So far, the lead compound has been shown to kill the malaria parasite in mouse models. Further tests to demonstrate safety are needed before the compound could be developed into a drug for clinical trials, Dr. Phillips said. Besides support from MMV, a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health is funding this research.

"We were trying to find a compound that would bind the parasite enzyme selectively and stop its function without inhibiting the human enzyme. Therefore, the parasites can't make key building blocks for DNA and RNA biosynthesis and they die," said Dr. Phillips.

Dr. Phillips and three other team members received their awards at MMV's annual board and stakeholders meeting in Tanzania. United Republic of Tanzania President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete presented the awards. MMV holds its meeting each year in an area affected by malaria.

Having done graduate work on African sleeping sickness, another parasitic disease, Dr. Phillips was drawn to research on malaria drug development soon after joining the UT Southwestern faculty in 1992. Although the odds of discovering an approved anti-malarial drug are slim only about one in 10 compounds at this stage of development make it to market Dr. Phillips said the potential to make a life-saving drug discovery is worth it.

"This is about as cool as it gets. If you are able to actually do research, help people and have an impact, that is just fantastic," Dr Phillips said.


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Contact: Debbie Bolles
debbie.bolles@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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