Griffith University, the Institute of Glycomics Sciences and Rotary are excited to announce that Honorable Anna Bligh AC will be the first National Ambassador for the Malaria Vaccine Project.
Ms Bligh said malaria kills more than half a million people worldwide each year, and tragically, most of these deaths are young children.
«These statistics are both alarming and devastating. It’s time we took more aggressive action to help solve this global problem,» said Ms. Bligh.
A team of scientists at the Glycomics Institute, led by Professor Michael Good AO and Dr Danielle Stanisic, is developing the world’s first ‘whole-parasite’ blood-stage malaria vaccine, which is currently in human clinical trials.
Professor Good, Principal Research Leader of the Glycomics Institute, said: «The Griffith University Malaria Vaccine Project aims to develop a vaccine that promotes immunity and effectively kills the blood-borne malaria parasite stage of the pathology, morbidity and mortality of malaria.
«Our research has shown that this unique vaccine approach can stimulate an immune response that provides broader protection against different strains and strains of malaria parasite, which is what makes it a novel vaccine design.»
In 2015, Rotary District 9640 partnered with Griffith University to support the Malaria Vaccine Project.
Together with Emeritus Professor Graham Jones AM, Ms Sandra Doumany OAM, and others from Rotary clubs in Australia, she formed the Griffith University Rotary Malaria Vaccine Project Committee.
Professor Emeritus Graham Jones, Chair of the Malaria Vaccine Project Committee, said: «Since then, Rotary has helped Griffith University raise more than $2 million in funding to advance the vaccine through early clinical trials.»
Griffith University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Carolyn Evans invited Ms. Bligh to her team of passionate researchers and community members dedicated to the fight against malaria.
«Thanks to unquestioned community support, Institute for Glycomics researchers are ready to embark on a full Phase I study to evaluate vaccine safety and efficacy in human volunteers,» said Professor Evans.
«We are one step closer to testing our malaria vaccine candidate in areas where it is most needed and hopefully one step closer to a disease-free future.»
There are six main types of malaria parasites that infect humans. Infection begins with the bite of an infected mosquito, injecting parasites that travel to the liver and stay there for a short time before infecting red cells. The deadliest type of malaria is Plasmodium falciparum, which is responsible for about 627,000 deaths each year, mostly young children. Pregnant women are also at significant risk, as women lose the immunity they gained as children when they become pregnant.
The Griffith University Malaria Vaccine Project aims to develop a vaccine that will reduce this suffering by activating immunity that can effectively kill the malaria parasite stage present in the blood – it is this stage that is responsible for the pathology, morbidity and mortality of malaria.
The vaccine concept is novel and is based on the ‘whole-parasite’ vaccine design, which results in a broad immune response capable of targeting multiple strains of P. falciparum. All other vaccines currently in development targeting the blood stage of the parasite are based primarily on a single protein taken from the parasite’s surface. Unfortunately, all of this has failed as the evoked immune response is sub-optimal. Additionally, the parasite proteins included in the vaccine tend to differ greatly between different parasite strains; this means that the antibody response induced by the vaccine can protect against only a fraction of the parasite strains. The whole parasite vaccine approach ensures that all >5,000 proteins are included in the vaccine. Griffith University researchers have shown that this vaccine approach can stimulate an immune response that provides broader protection against different strains and strains of malaria parasite.
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