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IP/11/489

Brussels, 19 April 2011

EU-funded breakthrough in malaria treatment in the run up to World Malaria Day

Ahead of World Malaria Day (25 April), EU-funded researchers have discovered that drugs originally designed to inhibit the growth of cancer cells can also kill the parasite that causes malaria. They believe this discovery could open up a new strategy for combating this deadly disease, which, according to World Health Organisation statistics, infected around 225 million and killed nearly 800 000 people worldwide in 2009. Efforts to find a treatment have so far been hampered by the parasite’s ability to quickly develop drug resistance. The research involved four projects funded by the EU (ANTIMAL, BIOMALPAR, MALSIG and EVIMALAR) and was led by laboratories in the UK, France and Switzerland with partners from Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden, along with many developing nations severely affected by malaria.

Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "This discovery could lead to an effective anti-malaria treatment that would save millions of lives and transform countless others. This demonstrates yet again the added value both of EU-funded research and innovation in general and of collaboration with researchers in developing countries in particular. The ultimate goal is the complete eradication of the global scourge of malaria and collaborative work across many borders is the only way of confronting such global challenges effectively."

Cancer drugs to kill malaria parasite

Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. In the human body, the parasites reproduce in the liver, and then infect and multiply in red blood cells. Joint research led by EU-funded laboratories at the Inserm-EPFL Joint Laboratory, Lausanne, (Switzerland/France), Wellcome Trust Centre for Molecular parasitology, University of Glasgow (Scotland), and Bern University (Switzerland) showed that, in order to proliferate, the malaria parasite depends upon a signalling pathway present in the host's liver cells and in red blood cells. They demonstrated that the parasite hijacks the kinases (enzymes) that are active in human cells, to serve its own purposes. When the research team used cancer chemotherapy drugs called kinase inhibitors to treat red blood cells infected with malaria , the parasite was stopped in its tracks.

A new strategy opens up

Until now the malaria parasite has managed to avoid control by rapidly developing drug resistance through mutations and hiding from the immune system inside liver and red blood cells in the body of the host, where it proliferates. The discovery that the parasite needs to hijack some enzymes from the cell it lives in opens up a whole new strategy for fighting the disease. Instead of targeting the parasite itself, the idea is to make the host cell environment useless to it, by blocking the kinases in the cell. This strategy deprives the parasite of a major modus operandi for development of drug resistance.

Several kinase-inhibiting chemotherapy drugs are already used clinically in cancer therapy, and many more have already passed phase-I and phase II clinical trials. Even though these drugs have toxic side-effects, they are still being used over extended periods for cancer treatment. In the case of malaria, which would require a shorter treatment period, the problem of toxicity would be less acute. Researchers are proposing therefore that these drugs should be evaluated immediately for anti-malarial properties, drastically reducing the time and cost required to put this new malaria-fighting strategy into practice.

The next steps will include mobilising public and industrial partners to verify the efficacy of kinase inhibitors in malaria patients and to adjust the dose through clinical trials, before the new treatments can be authorised and made available to malaria patients worldwide.

Background

Since 2002, the EU has invested nearly EUR 180 million in malaria research through the EU's Framework Programmes for Research (FP6, 2002-2006, and FP7, 2007-2013).

The EU also contributes to the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) which aims to accelerate the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines and microbicides against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Established in 2003, this successful ongoing European and African collaboration focuses on clinical trials as well as capacity building in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, 10 clinical trials on malaria costing EUR 69 million have been financed under EDCTP with EUR 35 million support from the EU.

Links

Article on the research: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21371233

About malaria:

http://ec.europa.eu/research/health/infectious-diseases/poverty-diseases/malaria_en.html

http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/healthtopics/malaria/Pages/index.aspx

http://ec.europa.eu/health/communicable_diseases/policy/index_en.htm

http://www.who.int/malaria/world_malaria_report_2010/worldmalariareport2010.pdf

http://www.edctp.org

Annex: Details on research projects involved in the discovery

Annex – Details on research projects involved in the discovery

Main contact person: Christian Doerig, Inserm-EPFL Joint Laboratory, Global Health Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, christian.doerig@epfl.ch, Tel +41 21 693 0983

ANTIMAL - Development of new drugs for the treatment of malaria

http://www.antimal.eu/

See video at http://www.comed-project.org/index.php?id=5

Start date: 01/12/2005

Duration: 66 months

EU contribution: 17.75 million euro

Contact: Stephen Ward, Liverpool School of tropical medicine molecular and biochemical parasitology, saward@liverpool.ac.uk, +44 (0) 151 705 3286

Participants:

LIVERPOOL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE
MOLECULAR AND BIOCHEMICAL PARASITOLOGY, LSTM

UNITED KINGDOM

PHILIPPS-UNIVERSITAT MARBURG

GERMANY

MERCK SERONO S.A.

SWITZERLAND

UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN

SOUTH AFRICA

AFRICAN INSTITUTE OF BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

ZIMBABWE

CENTRE NATIONAL DE RECHERCHE ET DE FORMATION SUR LE PALUDISME

BURKINA FASO

UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL

UNITED KINGDOM

COUNCIL FOR SCIENTIFIC AND INDUSTRIAL RESEARCH

SOUTH AFRICA

INSTITUTE OF PRIMATE RESEARCH

KENYA

KENYA MEDICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE/WELLCOME TRUST RESEARCH PROGRAMME

KENYA

CONSIGLIO NAZIONALE DELLE RICERCHE, INSTITUTE OF MOLECULAR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGIES

ITALY

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI MILANO

ITALY

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE

FRANCE

UNIVERSITE LOUIS PASTEUR

FRANCE

KIADIS B. V.

NETHERLANDS

NATIONAL TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF UKRAIINE, KPI

UKRAINE

LUDWIG-MAXIMILIANS UNIVERSITY MUNICH

GERMANY

GHENT UNIVERSITY

BELGIUM

JUSTUS-LIEBIG UNIVERSITY GIESSEN

GERMANY

NEED PHARMACEUTICALS

ITALY

PALUMED S A

FRANCE

COSMOS LIMITED

KENYA

4SC AG

GERMANY

LICA PHARMACEUTICALS A/S

DENMARK

AFRICAN CENTRE FOR CLINICAL TRIALS

KENYA

UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI

KENYA

MEDICAL RESEARCH UNIT, ALBERT SCHWEITZER HOSPITAL

GABON

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI SIENA

ITALY

SWISS TROPICAL INSTITUTE

SWITZERLAND

CONSEJO SUPERIOR DE INVESTIGACIONES CIENTIFICAS

SPAIN

UNIVERSITY OF DUNDEE

UNITED KINGDOM

FOUNDATION BIOMEDICAL PRIMATE RESEARCH CENTER

NETHERLANDS

UNIVERSITATSKLINIKUM HEIDELBURG

GERMANY

ST GEORGES HOSPITAL MEDICAL SCHOOL

UNITED KINGDOM

INSTITUT NATIONAL DE LA SANTE ET DE LA RECHERCHE MEDICALE

FRANCE

UNIVERSITY OF YORK

UNITED KINGDOM

LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE

UNITED KINGDOM

BIOMALPAR - Biology and pathology of the malaria parasite

www.biomalpar.org

Start date: 01/04/2004

Duration: 66 months

EU contribution: 16 million euro

Contact: Arthur SCHERF, Institut Pasteur, ascherf@pasteur.fr, Tel: + 33 1 45 68 86 16
Participants:

INSTITUT PASTEUR

FRANCE

UNIVERSITY OF YAOUNDE I

CAMEROON

INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR GENETIC ENGINEERING AND BIOTECHNOLOGY

INDIA

COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN

NIGERIA

UNIVERSITY OF GENEVA

SWITZERLAND

INSTITUTE OF ENDEMIC DISEASES UNIVERSITY OF KHARTOUM

SUDAN

MALARIA RESEARCH AND TRAINING CENTER, DEAP, FMPOS, U. OF BAMAKO, MALI

MALI

MAKERERE UNIVERSITY KAMPALA

UGANDA

FOUNDATION FOR RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY HELLAS - INSTITUTE OF MOLECULAR BIOLOGY & BIOTECHNOLOGY

GREECE

GENOME RESEARCH LIMITED

UNITED KINGDOM

IMPERIAL COLLEGE OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND MEDICINE

UNITED KINGDOM

UNIVERSITÀ "LA SAPIENZA"

ITALY

STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY

SWEDEN

KAROLINSKA LNSTITUTET

SWEDEN

UNIVERSTÄTSTKLINIKUM HEIDELBERG

GERMANY

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE-DR13

FRANCE

CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

UNITED KINGDOM

FOUNDATION BIOMEDICAL PRIMATE RESEARCH CENTER

NETHERLANDS

STICHTING KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT

NETHERLANDS

LEIDEN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER, DIVISION 5

NETHERLANDS

UNIVERSITE MONTPELLIER II

FRANCE

EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY

GERMANY

ISTITUTO SUPERIORE DI SANITÀ

ITALY

MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

UNITED KINGDOM

MALSIG - Signalling in life cycle stages of malaria parasites

http://www.malsig.lille.inserm.fr/

Starting date: 01/02/2009

Duration: 36 months
Contact: Christian Doerig, Inserm-EPFL Joint Laboratory, Global Health Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, christian.doerig@epfl.ch, Tel +41 21 693 0983

Participants:

INSTITUT NATIONAL DE LA SANTE ET DE LA RECHERCHE MEDICALE (INSERM) - Coordinating

FRANCE

GENOME RESEARCH LIMITED

UNITED KINGDOM

STICHTING KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT

NETHERLANDS

STICHTING BIOMEDICAL PRIMATE RESEARCH CENTER

NETHERLANDS

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF IMMUNOLOGY SOCIETY

INDIA

UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW

UNITED KINGDOM

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU UNIVERSITY

INDIA

INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR GENETIC ENGINEERING AND BIOTECHNOLOGY

ITALY

JULIUS-MAXIMILIANS UNIVERSITAET WUERZBURG

GERMANY

MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

UNITED KINGDOM

INSTITUT PASTEUR

FRANCE

UNIVERSITAETSKLINIKUM HEIDELBERG

GERMANY

ISTITUTO SUPERIORE DI SANITA

ITALY

INDIAN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE

INDIA

ST GEORGE'S HOSPITAL MEDICAL SCHOOL

UNITED KINGDOM

BERNHARD-NOCHT-INSTITUT FUER TROPENMEDIZIN

GERMANY

LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE

UNITED KINGDOM

EVIMALAR - Towards the establishment of a permanent European virtual institute dedicated to malaria research

http://www.evimalar.org/

Starting date: 01/10/2009

Duration: 60 months

EU contribution: 12 million euro

Contact: Andy P. Waters, Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, College of Medical Veterinary & Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Andy.Waters@glasgow.ac.uk
tel: +44 (0)141 330 8720
Participants

UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW (Coordinating)

UNITED KINGDOM

UNIVERSITE DE YAOUNDE I

CAMEROON

UNIVERSITY OF KHARTOUM

SUDAN

PHILIPPS UNIVERSITAET MARBURG

GERMANY

FOUNDATION FOR RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY HELLAS

GREECE

COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN

NIGERIA

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI ROMA LA SAPIENZA

ITALY

MAKERERE UNIVERSITY

UGANDA

UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE

AUSTRALIA

GENOME RESEARCH LIMITED

UNITED KINGDOM

STICHTING KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT

NETHERLANDS

STICHTING BIOMEDICAL PRIMATE RESEARCH CENTER

NETHERLANDS

MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

UNITED KINGDOM

SMITTSKYDDSINSTITUTET

SWEDEN

INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR GENETIC ENGINEERING AND BIOTECHNOLOGY

ITALY

EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY

GERMANY

INSTITUT DE RECHERCHE POUR LE DEVELOPPEMENT

FRANCE

KØBENHAVNS UNIVERSITET

DENMARK

UNIVERSITE DE GENEVE

SWITZERLAND

ACADEMISCH ZIEKENHUIS LEIDEN - LEIDS UNIVERSITAIR MEDISCH CENTRUM

NETHERLANDS

BERNHARD-NOCHT-INSTITUT FUER TROPENMEDIZIN

GERMANY

THE CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

UNITED KINGDOM

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI TORINO

ITALY

INSTITUT PASTEUR

FRANCE

STOCKHOLMS UNIVERSITET

SWEDEN

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE

FRANCE

INSTITUTO DE MEDICINA MOLECULAR

PORTUGAL

UNIVERSITAETSKLINIKUM HEIDELBERG

GERMANY

MAX PLANCK GESELLSCHAFT ZUR FOERDERUNG DER WISSENSCHAFTEN E.V.

GERMANY

IMPERIAL COLLEGE OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND MEDICINE

UNITED KINGDOM

ISTITUTO SUPERIORE DI SANITA

ITALY

INSTITUT NATIONAL DE LA SANTE ET DE LA RECHERCHE MEDICALE (INSERM)

FRANCE

LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE

UNITED KINGDOM

LIVERPOOL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE

UNITED KINGDOM

University of Buea (UoB)

Cameroon

Centre de Recerca en Salut de Barcelona (CRESIB)

SPAIN

University of Pretoria (UP)

SouTH AFRICA

Karolinska Institute (KI)

Sweden

Affiliate institutions

University Federico II, Naples

ITALY

Université Montpellier II

FRANCE

University of Bordeaux

FRANCE

London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine

United KingDOM

National Institute for Medical Research

UNITED kingdom

Radboud University

NETHERLANDS

University of Perugia

ITALY

Strasbourg University

FRANCE

Stockholm University

SWEDEN

University of Glasgow

UNITED KINGDOM

University of Rome 'La Sapienza'

ITALY

Malaria Research Training Center

MALI

KEMRI - Wellcome Trust

KENIA

European Molecular Biology Laboratory

GERMANY

Pasteur

FRANCE

Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas. Institute of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology

GREECE

Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

Switzerland


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