The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) announced today that it has entered into a collaboration with Dutch biopharmaceutical company Crucell N.V. and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). This collaboration is aimed at developing a second-generation vaccine against malaria—a deadly disease that kills close to 800,000 people annually, most of them young children under age five in Africa. MVI drives the development of malaria vaccines by joining its scientific, managerial, and field expertise with companies, universities, and governments to test potential malaria vaccines and invest in those with the most promise.
The new project will bring together two promising vaccine approaches in an effort to develop a malaria vaccine that may have the potential to improve on the efficacy of GSK’s first generation RTS,S vaccine candidate. In this collaborative effort, a single dose of Crucell’s weakened recombinant adenovirus Ad35.CS.01malaria vaccine approach will be administered, followed by two doses of GSK’s RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate in a Phase 1/2a clinical trial that is expected to begin later this year. This would be the first test in humans of this “heterologous prime-boost” approach against malaria.
“We are at an important moment in malaria vaccine development,” said Dr. Christian Loucq, director of MVI. “For the first time, we have a malaria vaccine in late phase development in the form of the RTS,S vaccine candidate. This new collaboration, though in the early stages, gives us the opportunity to test an approach with the potential to substantially increase efficacy and move us closer to the internationally agreed upon goal of an 80 percent effective second-generation vaccine by 2025.”
The RTS,S vaccine candidate is currently in the midst of a large-scale Phase 3 clinical efficacy trial. If all goes well in Phase 3 testing, the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that a policy recommendation for RTS,S is possible as early as 2015, paving the way for countries to make a decision about implementation through their national immunization programs. The RTS,S trial, which is the outcome of a decade-long collaboration between MVI and GSK, involves 11 sites in seven African countries.
Crucell and MVI first began working together in 2007 to develop adenovirus-based vaccines targeting malaria and are currently collaborating on another heterologous prime-boost approach. Crucell’s Ad35.CS.01 was recently tested in a Phase 1 clinical study in the United States.