GHIT Awards Seven New Grants Amounting To US$15.3 Million

Research in the neglected tropical diseases of dengue, malaria and Chagas disease receive a US$15.3 million boost in funding from GHIT.

AsianScientist (Sep. 25, 2014) – The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT Fund), a public health partnership that is bringing Japanese know-how and investment to the global fight against infectious diseases, has awarded seven grant investments totaling US$15.3 million.

The grants will go to projects developing promising drugs and vaccines to battle three insect-borne diseases: Chagas disease, dengue and malaria.

“Still breathless from global efforts at elimination, today the world confronts a disturbing reemergence of infectious disease that knows no borders. In response and recognition, today we announce a total portfolio of 29 partnerships representing over US$33 million in investments. This portfolio is a testament to our commitment to investing in the health of the more than four billion people who battle daily against infectious diseases,” said Dr. BT Slingsby, CEO of the GHIT Fund.

Chagas disease, transmitted by insects often dubbed “kissing bugs”, kills more people in Latin America than any other parasitic disease. GHIT has awarded US$2 million to the Sabin Vaccine Institute, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine, Eisai Co., Ltd. and Aeras, to develop a vaccine against the disease. The overall goal of the project is to develop a new vaccine formulation that includes a novel adjuvant and could potentially prevent at least 10,000 deaths annually.

Dengue is mosquito-borne and one of the most widespread tropical diseases. Before 1970, nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics, according to the World Health Organization. Today, it is endemic in more than 100 countries and infects up to 100 million people annually.

Japanese vaccine developer KAKETSUKEN and Mahidol University in Thailand will receive US$3.45 million from the GHIT fund for the development of a tetravalent vaccine that contains all four serotypes of the dengue virus. The investment will support assay validation and dose ranging efficacy studies in non-human primates using optimally attenuated strains confirmed through ongoing screening studies.

US$10 million of the GHIT fund will go to another emerging mosquito-borne disease, malaria. The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) and Ehime University of Japan will receive US$766,000 to fast-track the research and manufacture of a novel malaria vaccine candidate called Pf75. This new vaccine approach—called a transmission-blocking vaccine—is targeted at blocking malaria parasite transmission from humans to mosquitoes. GHIT investment will enable the streamlining of Pf75 product development as a vaccine candidate for clinical studies with pre-specified stage-gate for each developmental phase.

A second malaria grant investment of US$1 million related to the development of a malaria vaccine has been made to a consortium involving the European Vaccine Initiative (EVI), Germany; the Research Institute for Microbial Diseases at Osaka University (RIMD), Japan; and the Center National de Recherche et de Formation sur le Paludisme (CNRFP), Burkina Faso. Their vaccine candidate, called BK-SE36, would primarily target young children, who account for most malaria deaths. The grant follows a US$750,000 GHIT investment in 2013 for the development of the newly adjuvanted BK-SE36.

A third US$3.8 million grant investment in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s partnership with Eisai Co., Ltd. and the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) will go toward developing a novel drug that is fast-acting and safe, has a long duration of action and can potentially block transmission/prevent relapse with just one dose. The goal is to develop the fastest, safest antimalarial drug for use in disease endemic regions. Its fast-acting compound, SJ733, which would likely be combined with another key drug component, is not artemisinin-based, thus it is not at risk for emerging resistance to existing malaria medicines.

A fourth US$1.3 million grant investment in the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) in partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. is awarded for the study of the effects of a new malaria drug candidate DSM265 as part of a combination therapy. The study will establish whether DSM265 has the potential to be part of a single-dose antimalarial cure when combined with other investigational new medicines. This drug combination therapy is aligned with the World Health Organization’s recommendation that malaria be treated with a combination of effective antimalarials to reduce the development of drug resistance.

A final US$3 million grant investment for malaria research was awarded to the Broad Institute and Eisai Co., Ltd. The research will focus on further evaluating a series of previously identified compounds in order to identify the best candidate for clinical trials. One of the study’s goals is to identify potential oral therapeutics that could cure malaria rapidly and prevent relapses by blocking transmission of the parasite.

The seven new grants mark the GHIT Fund’s third round of grant investments since November 2013—totaling US$33.5 million—aimed at diseases that sicken and kill the world’s poorest of the poor.


Source: Global Health Innovative Technology Fund.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist