‘African solution to an African problem’



anne taylorBy Anne Taylor
20 August 2013

A project led by the University of Cape Town has given new impetus to the race to find a single-dose cure for malaria. An antimalarial compound – known as MMV390048 – has been developed by by an international collaboration headed by a team of scientists at UCT’s Drug Development and Research Centre (H3-D). It is the first of its kind to be researched on African soil.

Dr Kelly Chibale and his team. Photo: <a href="http://www.uct.ac.za/">UCT</a>Dr Kelly Chibale (centre) and his team. Photo: UCTThe project was recently named the 2012 Project of the Year by the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). The award was given in recognition of the potential of the compound to become part of a single-dose cure for malaria.

“The development of MMV390048 shows once again that African scientists are rising to the challenge and taking the lead in malaria drug research,” said Dr Timothy Wells, chief scientific officer at the MMV.

Professor Kelly Chibale, founder and director of the H3-D drug discovery and development centre, told UCT’s Monday Monthly: “UCT launched H3-D to focus drug discovery research on the development of an African solution to this largely African problem. Working with MMV and partners from around the world, we have been able to develop MMV390048 into a clinical candidate in record time and provide excellent, world-class training for the next generation of African scientists.”

The compound has entered pre-clinical trials and will be ready for human testing in March 2014.

Malaria kills between 600 000 and a million people a year. Of those affected, more than 90% are from sub-Saharan Africa and 86% are below the age of five. As the malaria parasite is beginning to display signs of drug resistance, there is an urgent need to develop new drugs to treat the disease effectively.