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About 3.2 billion people, nearly half of the world’s population, are at risk of malaria.

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Science and Technology minister Naledi Pandor

In 2015 there were about 214 million malaria cases and an estimated 438000 malaria deaths. Increased prevention and control measures have led to a 60% reduction in malaria mortality rates globally since 2000, the World Health Organisation reported.

The University of Cape Town’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre, H3D, has identified a new potent anti-malarial development candidate with potential for both treatment and prevention of malaria. The compound, referred to as UCT943, is the second preclinical candidate to come out of the collaboration led by H3D involving the Switzerland-based Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and an international network of partners.

The data so far shows that UCT943 has promised to be more potent against the parasite, and easier to formulate although these aspects would be the subject of the next studies, and ultimately will need to be validated in humans.

“Like (MMV) 048, UCT943 has potent activity against all stages of the malaria parasite life-cycle and has the potential to block transmission of the parasite from person to person and, as such, could contribute to the eradication of malaria, a disease that claims the lives of around half a million people every year,” founder and director of H3D, Prof Kelly Chibale, said.

“The pre-clinical assessment of UCT943 is expected to take about 18 months, after which the hope is that it will progress into safety studies in human volunteers. Given the threat of drug-resistant strains of malaria it’s important to have a strong pipeline of new types of molecules,” MMV’s chief scientific officer, Dr Timothy Wells, said.

South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor said: “The department of science and technology is proud to be associated with the research done by Prof Chibale and H3D, and will continue to support their remarkable work. Their research is proving to be a valuable resource for the country and a vital asset in the training of the African scientists who will lead our continent’s research and development in years to come.”

H3D is Africa’s first integrated drug discovery and development centre. When H3D was first launched in 2010, it was a team of five academic postdoctoral research scientists. Now, H3D has grown to a team of over fifty, attracting industry-experienced drug discoverers from pharmaceutical companies based in India, the USA and Europe.

It is also helping to train a new generation of African scientists, creating strong foundations for the future. This transformation has allowed the transfer of key skills and technology to South Africa, from medicinal chemistry to biology. The H3D portfolio also includes projects targeting tuberculosis drug discovery and is now expanding to address the serious threat of Antimicrobial Resistance, specifically resistant Gram negative bacteria.

Click here to read this story on The New Age

Article by TATENDA CHIRISERI

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