PROGRESS TOWARDS THE MALARIA VACCINE, PlasProtecT

Eight years ago, Professor Michael Good and his team set a goal of developing a whole parasite vaccine and testing it in human volunteers. This vision was derived from experiments they had published previously in which volunteers could be infected with a low dose of live parasites and treated before they became sick.

They subsequently developed a potent immune response to malaria and there was a suggestion that they were protected from malaria. Using this principle, a plan was developed for making a vaccine by using a drug that would attenuate (or ‘anaesthetise’) the parasites. Dr Danielle Stanisic (seen here with Professor Michael Good) was then charged with the important task of preparing for human studies. One of her initial important goals was to prepare a bank of cultured parasites that were suitable (safe) for inoculation into volunteers.

November saw the publication of there first human pilot trial of the vaccine, in which volunteers were administered a single dose of vaccine to assess safety and immunogenicity. They were very pleased to observe that the vaccine was safe and that all volunteers developed an immune response (primarily of T cells).

This work was published in the prestigious British journal, BMC Medicine. Professor Good and Dr Stanisic have now commenced the first of the human trials of the 3-dose vaccine, which has been trademarked as PlasProtecT. After receiving the vaccine, volunteers will be given a live malaria infection to determine whether they are protected.

In Summary, their research, with the great help and input of Rotary is progressing up to their expectations. The recent BMC Medicine paper was a watershed moment as it represents the very first study of a whole parasite vaccine in human volunteers anywhere in the world.

Professor Michael F. Good AO Principal Research Leader, Institute for Glycomics, Griffith University


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