Biotechnology firm awarded grant to develop malaria vaccine

The Rockville, Maryland-based biotechnology firm Sanaria has been awarded a three year, $3 million phase II small business research innovation grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue developing a vaccine that protects against malaria.  

This money will be used to support Sanaria and its partner Columbia University as they genetically modify strains of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum to be used as live vaccines, reports.

"There is considerable excitement about whole parasite malaria vaccines, and research towards developing genetically modified strains for such vaccines is at the cutting edge of this field," Christian Loucq, director of the Malaria Vaccine Initiative with PATH, said, according to

The parasites are weakened by exposure to radiation so that they can invade host tissues but cannot complete differentiation to replicate or cause disease. This stimulates a protective immunity against malaria that is introduced to a host by the bite of infected mosquitoes.

"Sanaria is uniquely positioned at this time to expand the pipeline of candidate sporozoite vaccines to include vaccines based on precisely gene-altered parasites that are highly potent in inducing protective immunity against malaria and are unable to cause disease," Stephen L. Hoffman, Sanaria's founder and chief scientist said, according to

According to Sanaria, malaria is responsible for over 100 million infections and one million deaths among children and infants in Africa every year.

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