Merck joins PATH on next-gen malaria vax program

Merck ($MRK) has signed on to work with the groundbreaking PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and the NYU Langone Medical Center on a next-generation malaria vaccine that will attempt to ward off the parasite that causes the disease, preventing it from penetrating the liver.

The team will focus on a region of the circumsporozoite protein that plays a key role in the way it functions. If they can stop the parasite before it gets into the liver, the vaccine has the potential to stop the disease in its tracks. "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," said Dr. Christian Loucq, director of MVI.

"We think we can improve the way sub-unit vaccines are designed by strategically targeting this critical protein function," noted Dr. Elizabeth Nardin, professor in the Department of Medical Parasitology at NYU Langone Medical Center. "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."

New vaccines are being advanced after years of work distributing insecticide-treated bed nets and spraying indoors in regions where malaria is rife. And those older programs have dramatically reduced the rate of deaths. Hospital admissions and deaths have been cut in half in 11 countries in Africa while dozens of countries outside Africa are reporting major progress. Much of the new work is being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

- here's the Merck release
- read the story from The Hindu