SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

Novartis discovers new malaria drug target

Scientists with Novartis, a Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company, found a new drug target for treating malaria that could result in a treatment for multiple stages of the deadly disease, Novartis said on Thursday.

The scientists identified phosphatidylinositol-4 kinase as the target of a novel experimental antimalarial compound class called the imidazopyrazines. The novel compound class inhibits the development of multiple malaria-causing Plasmodium species at each stage of infection in human hosts.

Novartis is conducting ongoing research, supported by the Wellcome Trust and Medicines for Malaria Venture, to develop imidazopyrazines as a new treatment for malaria. The research was published online in Nature.

"This new target for malaria provides an avenue to develop the next-generation antimalarial drugs that are capable of preventing, treating and blocking the spread of malaria, a key goal of Novartis," Thierry Diagana, the head of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, said. "Compounds that inhibit this new target have the potential to complement our current malaria drug pipeline, KAE609 and KAF156, and could provide a path toward elimination of the disease."

Novartis researchers discovered the new class of compound by carrying out a large screening process to discover and validate drug targets for antimalarial drug discovery. The scientists then isolated strains of parasites that became resistant to the compound class and identified the mutated genes. PfPI4K was one of the resistant genes.

According to the World Health Organization, malaria kills more than 660,000 people annually, most of whom are children in Africa.