GenVec, Inc., PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), and the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) today announced a dynamic partnership to assess whether five malaria antigens, or proteins, can generate strong immune responses alone or in combination. This partnership will advance and expand the ongoing malaria vaccine development program between GenVec and NMRC. Malaria is one of the world's three leading infectious disease killers.
Under a two-year Collaborative Research, Development and Supply Agreement, MVI will provide GenVec up to $2.5 million for the production and evaluation of adenovirus vectors containing genes for up to five malaria antigens. GenVec's proprietary technology uses a replication deficient adenovector to deliver the genes to cause the production of beneficial antigens. Under a separate Collaborative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between GenVec and NMRC, NMRC scientists will provide GenVec with optimized malaria genes to be used in the adenovector vaccines. NMRC will then compare the effects of these vaccines alone and in combination in animal models.
Many malaria experts believe that a vaccine containing more than one malaria antigen will be necessary to adequately impact disease. The vaccines will contain the genes for up to five antigens (CSP, SSP2, LSA1, MSP1, and AMA1) from different stages of the parasite's life cycle--antigens thought to be important in preventing or limiting the severity of malaria. GenVec's technology will enable several malaria genes to be delivered in a single vaccine.
"MVI is delighted to be working with GenVec and NMRC on such vital development work," said Dr. Melinda Moree, Director of MVI. "We hope to learn more about which antigens to drive forward and which to halt--a key contribution that MVI can make to move the field ahead. This selection process should give scientists worldwide a better idea about the components needed to produce an effective malaria vaccine."
"The synergistic attributes of this partnership are powerful," commented Dr. Joseph Bruder, GenVec's Director of Vector and Vaccine Programs. "The partnership combines the latest in malaria antigen optimization with GenVec's advanced adenovector delivery technology," he concluded.
Dr. Denise Doolan, Head of Pre-Clinical Research and Development at the NMRC Malaria Program echoed Dr. Bruder's comments, "NMRC is very pleased to be working with GenVec and MVI on the development of 'next generation' malaria vaccines. This is a natural follow-on to NMRC's molecular vaccine development program and represents a unique partnership of government, industry, and the public-sector."
Malaria is a life-threatening disease transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Malaria parasites initially invade liver cells, multiply, and release tens of thousands of new parasites. These new parasites invade red blood cells and multiply again, destroying the cells. Flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and vomiting appear 9 to 14 days after the infectious bite. If untreated, the infection can progress rapidly and become life threatening, resulting in severe anemia, coma, and death. Malaria causes more than 300 million acute illnesses and over one million deaths annually, mostly among children under the age of five. Malaria is also a major health risk for travelers and the military.