Potential malaria drug breakthrough
University of Cape Town scientists in collaboration with Swiss-based colleagues are onto a possible breakthrough in the fight against malaria, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor has announced.
“I have the pleasure to announce the discovery of a compound which will be the first ever clinical candidate researched on African soil as part of a modern pharmaceutical industry drug discovery programme,” she said in a statement today.
The recently discovered compound, from the aminopyridine class, not only had the potential to become part of a single-dose cure for all strains of malaria, but might also be able to block transmission of the parasite from person to person, she said.
This followed a research collaboration involving the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), based in Switzerland, and the Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3-D) at UCT.
On the basis of initial results it had been selected by MMV for further development.
“The candidate molecule is novel, potent, and has the potential to have a significant impact on global malaria control and eradication,” Pandor said.
The science and technology department had invested R25 million in this pioneering programme between MMV and UCT.
“This is a powerful demonstration of how much can be accomplished when open minded researchers come together for the sake of the greater good of humanity.
“The discovery that we announce today is a significant victory in the battle to alleviate the burden of disease in Africa.
“Clearly the war on disease is not yet won, but I am excited by the role that our excellent scientists have played in finding a potential single-dose cure for malaria and possibly preventing its transmission.”
South Africa in general had built considerable strength in clinical research over the past decade. The main focus had been on HIV/Aids and TB.
This development had occurred together with significant growth in the basic sciences that underpinned infectious disease research (immunology, virology, microbiology, biochemistry, and genetics), Pandor said.