Seattle BioMed and the Yecuris Corporation today announced that they are to begin testing of novel intervention strategies for malaria, a disease that infects 300 million people a year and claims the lives of up to a million. In partnership with Yecuris, Stefan Kappe, Ph.D., professor, Seattle BioMed, will lead the research with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Nearly all malaria infections are caused by two parasite species, Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. The award will enable rapid screening of novel vaccine candidates for Plasmodium falciparum and novel drug candidates for Plasmodium vivax.
The malaria parasite is transmitted by mosquito bites. After the bite, the parasite enters the liver where it multiplies exponentially before being released into the blood stream and causing disease. Therefore, stopping the parasite at the liver stage is an excellent target for vaccines and drugs, as this will prevent blood stage disease and disease transmission. Dr. Kappe and his team, in collaboration with the Yecuris Corporation, recently demonstrated complete Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax liver-stage development in Yecuris’s human-liver chimeric mouse model.
“Our expertise using the Yecuris human-liver chimeric mouse model to study human malaria stages will allow us to investigate the effects of both vaccine and drug candidates on controlling liver stage infections in a relevant animal model and hopefully lead to the expedited discovery of malaria therapeutics,” said Dr. Kappe.
The contract will fund two main projects. In the first project, investigators will examine if serum from individuals taking part in malaria vaccine trials or antibodies specific to the parasite can prevent the P. falciparum parasite from reaching the liver and causing liver-stage infection In the second project, investigators will examine if novel drugs are able to prevent the formation and persistence of dormant Plasmodium vivax liver stages.
Alan Aderem, Ph.D., president, Seattle BioMed said, “This contract is the result of the culmination of a multi-year collaboration between the Kappe Lab and the Yecuris Corporation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s support of this novel, translational research will significantly advance our shared goal of a world without malaria.”