The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) and Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NYSE MKT: INO) today announced a follow-on collaboration to advance malaria vaccine development and new vaccination delivery technologies. Researchers will test whether a novel vaccine approach that combines genetically engineered DNA with an innovative vaccine delivery technology called electroporation could induce an immune response in humans that protects against malaria parasite infection.
Malaria is a deadly disease that still kills more than 500,000 children under age 5 every year. MVI accelerates the development of malaria vaccines by joining its scientific, managerial, and field expertise with companies, universities, and governments to develop malaria vaccines and continue to test and invest in those with the most promise.
This follow-on agreement for clinical development builds on a 2010 research and development collaboration between Inovio and MVI. Inovio researchers and their academic collaborators developed novel DNA plasmids targeting multiple malaria parasite antigens and conducted studies in rodents to demonstrate induction of broad immune responses. The success of these studies resulted in an expanded collaboration, in which further testing demonstrated potent T cell and antibody responses in other animal models.
This DNA-based vaccine approach involves delivery of plasmid DNA by electroporation. Electroporation deploys controlled electrical impulses to create temporary pores in a cell membrane, allowing uptake of the synthetic DNA. The cell then uses the DNA's instructions to produce proteins that mimic the presence of the malaria pathogen, with the aim of inducing an immune response that provides protection against malaria.
"We are excited to bring this innovative delivery technology into clinical testing to see whether the compelling immune responses seen in animal models translate to humans," said Dr. David C. Kaslow, director of MVI. "Determining if and how these potent immune responses lead to protection against infection with the most deadly form of malaria is a high priority in our efforts to develop a next generation malaria vaccine."
The clinical study will contain two study arms. The first study arm will include three antigens, two pre-erythrocytic (CSP and TRAP) and one blood stage (AMA-1), shown previously to protect against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria strain. The second study arm will include two additional pre-erythrocytic-stage antigens (LSA-1 and CelTOS).