Merck, NYU Langone Medical Center to develop malaria vaccine

Merck, the NYU Langone Medical Center and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative have announced a new collaboration in an attempt to develop a new malaria vaccine that will target a major surface protein on the malaria parasite.
The circumsporozoite protein is a possible target in the development of vaccines that attempt to stop malaria in the earlier stages of infection. By blocking a particular function of the protein, researchers hope they can stop the parasite from invading the liver in the first place.

“We think we can improve the way sub-unit vaccines are designed by strategically targeting this critical protein function,” Dr. Elizabeth Nardin, a professor in the department of medical parasitology at NYU Langone Medical Center, said. “Other vaccine approaches targeting CSP have required extremely high levels of antibody, which are difficult to elicit and to maintain. This approach has the potential to address that problem.”

This vaccine approach is being tested primarily for use in children younger than one, though it may be able to prevent disease in all populations vulnerable to the most deadly species of the parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, and could be adapted to prevent P. vivax as well.

“With the availability of a first-generation malaria vaccine on the horizon, we are ramping up our efforts to seek out and invest in scientific approaches for malaria vaccines that could potentially be even more effective and protect more people,” MVI director Dr. Christian Loucq said. “We are very please that one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and a major academic medical center have committed to testing a promising new way to defend children against malaria.”