The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund has awarded the University of Florida and partners in the United States and Japan $3.2 million to advance a promising vaccine to prevent transmission of malaria. The vaccine will be a Transmission Blocking Vaccine (TBV) and will break the cycle of disease transmission.

Malaria is a possibly life-threatening disease that is caused by parasites that can be transmitted by a bite from an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria is currently preventable and curable in many ways such as tonic water (the quinine in the water)-first used in India. People who are more at risk of contracting malaria are; infants, children under 5, pregnant women and patients with HIV/AIDS. Between 2010-2015 malaria infections among at-risk groups fell by 21% and mortality rates amount at risk groups dropped by 29%.

The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund has granted the University of Florida  US$3 200 000 to expand on a promising vaccine that will disrupt the transmission cycle of malaria. The University’s Pathogens Institute and Rhoel Dinglasan and associate professor have spent years trying to develop a TBV for malaria. The blood a female Anopheles mosquitoes get from immunised humans will prevent the mosquito from getting infected by the Plasmodium parasite that is responsible for malaria, therefore disrupting the cycle of transmission.

Dinglasan and his team identified the protein Alanyl Aminopeptidase N (AnAPN1) which Plasmodium needs to infect in the gut of the mosquito. They deduced that this could be a pathway to preventing the transmission of malaria, and aimed to create a vaccine to generate antibodies to AnAPN1 in humans. The initial testing on mice of the vaccine was halted due to the mice primarily generating antibodies to the less crucial fragment of AnAPN1, so the team refocused their efforts on solving and mapping out the structure of the protein which would allow them to precisely pinpoint the relevant transition blocking regions. When they tested the antibodies to the redesigned vaccine target using infected blood samples they found that small amounts of the antibody entirely prevented transmission of the parasite.

The grant will help the development of the vaccine move forward to human trials. Dinglasan says;

AnAPN1 is a great pan-malaria transmission-blocking vaccine and we have even made it better. […] This funding support puts the vaccine back in the process of development and vaccine production pipeline with an eye on getting to first-in-human trials in a few more years.

 

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