PATH, research institutes to test novel malaria vaccine in humans

Scientists are testing a genetically modified rodent malaria parasite as a vaccine in humans.

Vaccine pioneer Edward Jenner offered a first glimpse into the vaccine world, and now, scientists from three different countries are building on his approach in a novel malaria vaccine to be tested in humans.

The Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc) in the Netherlands, the Instituto de Medicina Molecular (iMM Lisboa) in Portugal, and international nonprofit PATH have joined forces for a human trial of a new malaria vaccine.

For the vaccine, provided by iMM Lisboa, scientists are using a rodent version of the malaria parasite and modifying it with a specific gene from the deadly P. falciparum parasite. Their hope is that the candidate could protect humans against the deadliest version of the disease.

Modern genetic manipulation tools offer a twist, but the concept is similar to Jenner's approach to smallpox vaccination. For that vaccine, Jenner used a less dangerous bovine version of the disease to inoculate humans.

Radboudumc will conduct the trial in the Netherlands, while PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) will provide financial support and oversee the studies.

The trial will enroll 18 healthy adult volunteers, who will be assigned to one of three groups and receive different numbers of bites from mosquitoes carrying the genetically modified parasite, i.e., the vaccine. After that, researchers will assess the immune response of those from the highest dose group.

RELATED: GlaxoSmithKline's malaria shot set for WHO pilot test in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi

Elsewhere in the malaria vaccine field, GlaxoSmithKline's first-of-a-kind vaccine Mosquirix is set for real-world pilot studies in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, as mandated by the World Health Organization before an all-out mass vaccination. GSK developed that vaccine with help from PATH’s MVI, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Maryland-based Sanaria is also testing the efficacy and optimizing the formulation of its live, attenuated malaria vaccine PfSPZ in different early-phase trials on adults or infants in Africa.