A powerful new drug to treat malaria - the invention of a University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy researcher -- will help take the bite out of malaria. In the United States, a mosquito bite seems harmless, but in developing countries it means more than 655,000 deaths a year - mostly in children.
The new drug, SynriamTM, is considered a breakthrough, as traditional drugs are proving increasingly ineffective against the deadly malarial parasite because of acquired resistance to available drugs. Taken as a tablet once a day for three days, it's more effective, cheaper, has fewer side effects and does not have to be taken with food.
From 2000 to 2010, Jonathan Vennerstrom, Ph.D., a professor at the UNMC College of Pharmacy, led an international team that created the drug compound that led to the development of SynriamTM. Developed by Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Limited, the medication now is approved for treatment in adults in India. The company also is working to create a children's formula and make the drug available in Africa, Asia and South America.
Dr. Vennerstrom and his team received more than $12 million in grants from Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), a non-profit organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He has been studying malaria for more than 25 years. The research team included scientists at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Switzerland and Monash University in Australia. MMV receives about 60 percent of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"With more than 200 million cases of malaria each year, the potential impact this drug could have on saving and improving lives worldwide is significant," Dr. Vennerstrom said. "That's been our goal and now we are at the finish line.
"We were very fortunate to receive the support for our project from MMV," he said. "It is always unpredictable whether or not a drug candidate will be successful."