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First Malaria Vaccine Trial being Carried Out in Ireland

Monday March 05, 2012

5th March 2012: The first malaria vaccine clinical trial to be carried out in Ireland is currently underway. It is the only clinical trial of an interventional vaccine currently being carried out in Ireland, and is the first clinical trial of its kind to be conducted in Ireland. The aim of the trial is to determine whether the vaccine is safe and produces an immunological response to malaria.

The clinical trial is being carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in collaboration with the Jenner Institute at Oxford University in the UK. It is funded by the European Vaccine Initiative (EVI), a European Economic Interest Grouping (EEIG).

Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello TD, said: “I am very encouraged to see Irish researchers becoming part of this international effort, directing their well recognised skills and talents towards this important work.

“Irish Aid has long been supporting vaccine development work internationally and now, through our support to EVI, Irish researchers are contributing to finding new and better products for neglected diseases.  We have awarded €5 million towards the costs of undertaking this research over the next five years. This research partnership with EVI is one of five Product Development Partnerships that we have funded and that are currently underway. All five partnerships are tasked with delivering new products for the treatment of neglected diseases, including AIDS and Tuberculosis as well as malaria.”

Professor Sam McConkey, Principal Investigator & Head of Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine, RCSI said ”Malaria parasites are becoming resistant to today’s drugs, which has complicated the treatment of malaria and created a need for expensive multi-drug therapy. In low income countries where malaria is endemic, expensive multi-drug therapy is often not an available treatment option so there is a need for new preventative treatments.”

Malaria is a huge global public health problem. Approximately 1.24 million(1) people die from malaria annually. The deaths are predominantly of children under five years in Africa.  About half of the world’s population are at risk of infection.

Dr. Odile Leroy Executive Director of EVI said “This is very promising research. Previous vaccine studies to date have been found to temporarily and partially prevent infection and clinical malaria for 18 months; however, this is not enough to make it a useful vaccine in the long term. An effective malaria vaccine could reduce the mortality rates from malaria and move towards eradication of the disease completely.”

The clinical trial is contributing to building Ireland’s international reputation as a world-class centre for innovation and research and development of new medicines and builds on Ireland’s existing large pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing industrial base.

To date, 18 people have volunteered for a pre-enrolment health check-up, and 9 people have begun the study. Further healthy adults who have not had malaria are needed. People interested in finding out more can visit the RCSI website or email for further information. The first results from the trial are expected later this year.

The next step in the development of this vaccine will be to establish the effectiveness of the vaccine in a phase IIa challenge model and through a phase IIb study in a country where malaria is common, with 200 – 300 adults.

The research is being undertaken by RCSI at its Clinical Research Centre at Beaumont Hospital as part of the new Academic Health Centre (AHC) with Connolly Hospital. The AHC aims to increase the capacity and speed of translating basic research ideas into improved clinical outcomes for patients.