By the time the second hand on your watch has circled its dial, a child will have died of malaria. And by the time those minutes have added up to a year, nearly 630,000 people - most of them African children* - will have died from the disease.
Malaria has been a health problem for much of human history, but recent progress in scaling up the use of bed-nets and anti-malarial treatments has seen annual deaths from malaria fall while scientists continue to search for new medicines and vaccines against malaria.
What causes malaria?
The enemy is tiny, but it packs a punch. Malaria is caused by parasites of the Plasmodium species, which are spread to people by mosquitoes carrying the parasites. If you are unlucky enough to get an infection, you can expect fever, shivering and vomiting but if left untreated, can lead to anemia, seizure, coma and even death.
The cause may be microscopic, but the problem it presents is huge. About half the world’s population is at risk from malaria, with most infections occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.
We are determined to help stop this disease, and along with our partner organizations we are optimistic this can be achieved. Our malaria strategy involves three prongs of attack: R&D for new malaria treatments and vaccines; community investment activities through our African Malaria Partnership; and improving access to medicines in the least developed countries and sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria is preventable and treatable, and all three approaches have their place.
With partners across the world, we are developing a malaria candidate vaccine. At our research and development facility at Tres Cantos in Spain, more than 50 scientists in our malaria discovery unit are searching for potential new medicines to fight the disease. Nearly all of this work is done in collaboration with academic groups and NGOs.
Our African Malaria Partnership was established in 2001. It works with NGOs to educate communities about malaria and the preventative measures that can be taken against it, such as sleeping under treated bed nets and seeking immediate treatment for children showing signs of fever.
A vaccine against malaria?
For three decades, GSK and its partners have been developing what could be the world’s first vaccine to help protect children in Africa against malaria.
Our vaccine candidate RTS,S, also known as MosquirixTM, has been developed in partnership with PATH MVI, supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Finding ways to overcome the malaria parasite’s defense mechanisms is extraordinarily challenging. But we are now a step closer to fulfilling that goal.
In July 2015, the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use granted RTS,S a positive scientific opinion. Read our RTS,S press release.
The World Health Organization has indicated that a policy recommendation for the vaccine candidate could be possible by the end of 2015. GSK would then apply for a WHO ‘pre-qualification’, before applying for marketing authorization in sub-Saharan African countries. These decisions would, if successful, pave the way toward implementation of RTS,S through African immunization programs. If approved, RTS,S is intended to complement existing measures to fight malaria, such as bed nets and indoor residual insecticide spraying.
GSK, MVI, and other partners are working to do what they can to ensure that RTS,S – if approved for use – reaches the infants and children who need it most. GSK has committed the eventual price will cover the cost of manufacturing the vaccine together with a small return of around 5% that will be reinvested in research and development for second-generation malaria vaccines, or vaccines against other neglected tropical diseases.