New consortium to build on breakthroughs in malaria research to develop P. vivax vaccines

Plasmodium vivax is the most widespread human malaria-causing pathogen with 2.5 billion people living at risk in Africa, South America, Oceania, and Asia. Over the next 5 years, OptiViVax, a newly created consortium across academia and industry, will build on exciting breakthroughs in malaria research to integrate state-of-the-art advances in parasite immunology, vaccine design, and innovative pre-clinical and clinical studies, to develop next-generation vaccines with increased efficacy against the P. vivax parasite.

Currently, the 2 approved vaccines against malaria are focused on P. falciparum and do not protect against P. vivax. While there are many similarities between P. falciparum and P. vivax, there are also major differences which affect the spread of vivax and attempts to control it. Vivax malaria is transmitted rapidly from person to person by mosquitoes, and in contrast to P. falciparum, a single infection can result in repeated disease episodes that are initiated by dormant liver stages of the parasite. Remarkably, vivax relapse is thought to account for the majority of new infections (80-90%). Vivax is more widespread than falciparum and recent studies show a significant burden of disease, particularly in young children and pregnant women. The revised Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap to 2030 facilitated by the World Health Organisation recognises the severity of P. vivax malaria, calling for a vaccine intervention to achieve 75% efficacy over two years, equally weighted with P. falciparum.

The OptiViVax consortium brings together academics, non-profits and industrial partners, with expertise in vaccine development, manufacturing, and clinical trials. The project will build on the expertise of its partners in P. vivax immuno-biology, preclinical functional assays, vaccine development, controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) clinical models and improved GMP bio-manufacturing know-how, to further develop next-generation vaccines with improved efficacy. The availability of new functional assays and human challenge models will underpin the future framework for informed decision-making by the clinical vaccine community, policymakers, funders and regulators.

The project is supported by funding from the European Union, the United Kingdom government, and Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

The OptiViVax consortium kick-off meeting was held on the 19th September, hosted by the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. The meeting brought together the 9 project partners from the EU, Ethiopia, Switzerland and UK, who will work in close collaboration towards a first generation of P. vivax vaccines.

This project is co-funded from the European Union Horizon Europe program under grant agreement No. 101080744. The project also receives funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the UK government's Horizon Europe funding guarantee and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research, and Innovation (SERI).

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