SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Seattle BioMed develops vaccine candidate for malaria parasite

Seattle BioMed announced the development of a next generation genetically attenuated parasite (GAP) on Thursday that could lead to the production of a highly protective malaria vaccine.

The study, which was published in Molecular Therapy, describes GAPs that are weakened by the precise removal of genes, which would effectively prevent the parasite from infecting humans.

The GAPs are alive, but incapable of multiplying, giving the immune system the ability to build up defense to prevent infection. The technique has been used in protecting against viruses and bacteria, but the approach is relatively new in the fight against parasites.

"While vaccination with live-attenuated parasites is capable of providing complete protection from malaria infection, it is imperative that we permanently cripple the very complex malaria parasite so that it cannot cause disease, and instead, effectively primes the immune system," Stefan Kappe, the study's corresponding author and professor at Seattle BioMed, said.

The new GAP strain removes three different genes associated with the pathogenicity of the malaria parasite and effectively nullifies its ability to infect humans, according to Seatle Biomed Senior Scientist and GAP Project Leader Sebastian Mikolajczak.

"The next step is to test the safety and efficacy of this attenuated parasite in clinical trials in a highly efficient manner," Alan Aderem, the president of Seattle BioMed, said. "Seattle BioMed's Malaria Clinical Trials Center is one of only four centers in the world approved to safely and effectively test new malaria treatments and vaccines in humans by the malaria human challenge model. We are committed better understanding and eventually eradicate this deadly pathogen."

Seattle Biomed is the largest independent, non-profit U.S. organization that focuses solely on infectious disease research.