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The Tetrahymena system as an innovative approach to malaria antigene expression
Framework programme:
Project number:
EC contribution:
€ 1,271,664
36 months
Starting date:
1st January 2007

Keywords: Malaria, Plasmodium, vaccines, Ciliates, Tetrahymena, MSP-1, VAR2CSA, biotechnology, bioproduction


This STREP, co-ordinated and lead by an SME, will focus on the development of new malaria vaccine candidates with the aim of taking at least one product to the stage of pilot scale. Products showing most promise, once expressed in the Tetrahymena system (or Ciliate system), will proceed to antigen testing in vitro and in vivo, to assess their structure and antigenic integrity. At least one product is expected to reach lead optimisation, safety and toxicology testing.

Combining the expertise of the two academic malaria research laboratories with the novel Ciliate-based expression system under development by the SME, will generate recombinant Tetrahymena thermophila strains expressing malaria antigens based primarily upon MSP-1 and the var2CSA genes of Plasmodium falciparum. To utilise the capabilities of the participants to greatest efficiency, this STREP will comprise, beside the Project Management, work packages dealing with the generation of antigen expressing Ciliate strains, pilot scale production and purification of the antigens and the testing and validation of candidate vaccines.

This STREP application, co-ordinated by Cilian AG, will provide an expression platform that can easily combine antigens to develop new combination vaccines that may be more promising than vaccines currently under development. Ciliate-based expression of Plasmodium falciparum proteins in secreted, membrane bound or cytosolic forms will complement the work done under the larger European malaria vaccine development project.


Malaria kills over one million children in Africa alone each year, with an addition of up to 500 million episodes of clinically significant illness due to malaria annually.Worldwide deaths are estimated at between 2 and 3 million per annum. Few other infectious diseases place such a burden on the social, economic and healthcare systems of developing countries. Therefore there is a pressing need for the development of a vaccine against malaria, to ease at least part of this overwhelming burden on the continent of Africa, which suffers the majority of the deaths and illness caused by the malaria parasite.

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