Sanaria raises $48.5M from Equatorial Guinea, oil and gas companies to develop malaria vaccine

Drug development often involves partnerships, but it's not often you hear about oil companies chipping in. The government of Equatorial Guinea has teamed up with Marathon Oil, Noble Energy and AMPCO to sponsor the development of the Sanaria PfSPZ vaccine against malaria. The $48.5 million in funding includes support for clinical trials from 2015 to 2018, Sanaria said in a statement.

Equatorial Guinea will contribute the bulk of the funding, committing $36.75 million, while the industry partners will contribute $11.75 million.

While GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) submitted its malaria candidate for EMA review last July, there is still no vaccine for malaria. Sanaria started clinical trials in Equatorial Guinea earlier this year and plans to conduct additional trials in 2016, and move into Phase III in 2017-2018.

When it's licensed, the vaccine will be used in mass vaccination campaigns to eliminate malaria in Equatorial Guinea, the company said.

Sanaria and the government of Equatorial Guinea signed an additional, separate agreement concerning future supply of the vaccine.

"Sanaria is honored and grateful to be able to work with our collaborators and funding partners in this historic, unprecedented, visionary effort led by the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and its oil and energy company partners … as a first step toward regional, continental, and world-wide elimination of this devastating disease," said Dr. Stephen Hoffman, CEO of Sanaria, which was founded in 2003.

Sanaria's goal is to create a whole-parasite vaccine for malaria. Other approaches include a transmission-blocking vaccine developed by the Malaria Vaccine Initiative. It doesn't fight malaria infection but stops infected people from transmitting the parasite to mosquitoes, which would go on to bite others.

- here's the release (PDF)