FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

USAID awards Leidos $23.7 mln contract to fight malaria

The US Agency for International Development contracted health and security solutions company Leidos to help develop a vaccine for malaria.

“Malaria continues to be a major public health problem in many parts of the developing world,” said Gabe Gutierrez, Senior Life Sciences Program Manager for Leidos.

Malaria is a threat for almost half the world’s populations, with 198 million cases in 2013 causing 584,000 deaths. 86 percent of those victims were children under five. By 2030, the World Health Organization hopes to reduce those rates by 90 percent and eliminate malaria in 35 countries.

“An effective malaria vaccine would be a key tool to add to the current malaria control armamentarium as well as for helping achieving the elimination goal,” said Gutierrez. “USAID selected Leidos to help bolster their vaccine development capabilities by providing experienced assistance in coordinating the scientific planning and management of malaria vaccine proof-of-concept studies.”

By combining non-profit and federal funding sources, Leidos will be able to prototype and tes new vaccines to treat malaria. Leidos plans to test these vaccine prototypes both clinically and in the field.

“However, many technical challenges face the design, testing, manufacture, and deployment of an effective subunit malaria vaccine,” said Gutierrez.

Roadblocks moving forward include inadequate efficacy, complex parasite life cycles and redundant immune targets, but Leidos remains optimistic. They plan to address these issues with adjuvants and expression technologies developed by a network of biotechnology and nonprofit firms.

“Leidos has deep roots in the malaria vaccine community and is ideally suited to support the USAID Malaria Vaccine Development Program,” said Gutierrez.

The company has worked in vaccine development for 14 years as part of a contract with Malaria Vaccine Production and Support Services and has advanced four of their ten potential vaccines to testing.

The contract between USAID and Leidos is valued at $23.7 million over the next five years.