Processing Magazine

Massive malaria vaccine trial to begin in Africa

November 10, 2008

Researchers trying to create the world''s first malaria vaccine are launching a massive medical trial in Africa as early as next month involving 16,000 children that could be the largest such trial ever conducted on children, according to the Associated Press. GlaxoSmithKline PLC is teaming with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, which is an anti-malaria charity funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and clinics and research centers in Africa to develop a malaria vaccine. Malaria kills nearly 1 million people every year, most of them children in Africa. The team has been working over the past year to upgrade their laboratories, computers and other equipment, as well as train technicians, and even help develop local equivalents of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure the trials are properly monitored. The Malaria Vaccine Initiative has so far spent $107 million on the project and has not yet calculated how much more it will spend. GlaxoSmithKline has spent $300 million so far, and estimates it will spend up to $100 million more. Researchers working on the trial said in an interview in Johannesburg that much of the groundwork already has been laid in preliminary trials involving 4,000 children conducted since 2003. They said that even if their vaccine does not succeed, the widespread investment needed to conduct the trials means that Africa will be left with better communications, research and other infrastructure that could be used in the search for vaccines against other diseases such as AIDS. While the researchers were optimistic, it will be several years before they know whether their vaccine candidate is safe and effective enough for wide use. The preliminary trials showed the vaccine was likely to be at least 30 percent effective against mild malaria cases and about 50 percent effective against severe malaria. The vaccine would have to be used along with preventive measures like mosquito nets and insecticides to save lives.