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Malaria research under FP6


Malaria research at European level was funded under the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) with approximately 30 million which were allocated to 24 projects. The projects efforts focused mainly on malaria vaccine research (14.5 million), malaria drugs (7.5 million), and fundamental research on parasite biology and disease development (4.5 million). With respect to malaria vaccine research under FP5, major efforts were invested in order to assemble a comprehensive vaccine development pipeline within the European cluster project; a European Malaria Vaccine Development Consortium, (EUROMALVAC).

In the area of malaria drug research, targeted approaches were supported, which either lead to the discovery of new classes of effective drug candidates or further advanced new artemisinin-based combination drugs or administration pathways towards clinical testing and application.

A large, rationally structured Network of Excellence (NoE) for fundamental research on the malarial parasite and malaria was established as one of the first NoEs under FP6. It was conceived to form the knowledge pool from where innovative approaches could be derived and which contain the potential for the development of new interventions. This network, running under the acronym BIOMALPAR, comprises most of Europe's top malaria research groups, which placed their individual research agendas and capacities into a common framework and which now jointly undertake crosscutting network tasks such as PhD training, dissemination of results and partnership building with leading African researchers.

The last calls under FP6 brought about two other large malaria projects, one for the development of new malaria drugs and one for malaria vaccine development. These, more product orientated, so-called Integrated Projects (IP), aim to assemble and integrate required Europe-wide research efforts and gear them towards early product development up to a proof-of-principle stage by either delivering promising new drugs or new vaccine candidates.

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As an outcome of the third call for proposals, a large IP for the development of new malaria drugs has been established - ANTIMAL, while a similar such project for malaria vaccines resulting from the fourth call and named EMVDA, is presently being set up. In its initial phase, the malaria drugs integrated project addresses a whole range of new targets and drug candidates. However, a profound review and comparative evaluation is foreseen after an18 month period to allow for a narrowing down of the project portfolio to just a few promising drug candidates, which, for the remaining part of the project, will progress further towards product development.

The integrated project on malaria vaccines has at its core a robust preclinical assay package to ensure vaccine candidates can be evaluated in a comparative manner, with only the most promising candidate products progressing towards GMP production and early human trials. In addition to these larger structures and comprehensive integrated approaches, a number of smaller, more specific, targeted and highly innovative research projects (STREPS) are being funded and that allow, in particular, young innovative groups and research-orientated SMEs to test breakthrough ideas for their potential as new vaccine and/or drug candidates.

Taken together, about 65 million will be spent on individual co-operative projects (large and small) for malaria research under FP6. In addition, phase 2 and phase 3 trials of malaria interventions in endemic countries can be supported under the EDCTP programme. Thus, taken all together, malaria research funding under FP6 will have more than tripled, compared to FP5 figures, reaching around 100 million in total.

Andreas Holtel,
Scientific Officer, Malaria

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