Alison adds “To achieve our goal, we believe it is important to collaborate with external partners so that we create an environment that stimulates the exchange of ideas for the benefit of patients. It’s an approach we are taking to develop our medicines and vaccines for malaria.”
30 years and counting: the quest for a vaccine
Fighting malaria demands an arsenal of weapons on which we can draw, from preventative measures like bed nets to medicines, and potentially vaccines. Finding a vaccine against malaria is extraordinarily challenging because the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, which causes the deadliest form of malaria in humans, is capable of adapting to the human host and escaping its immune responses.
But after more than 30 years of research, along with our partners, we are closer than ever to bringing a vaccine – named RTS,S/AS01 – to young children in Africa. Following one of the biggest trials of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, the European Medicines Agency gave our vaccine candidate a positive scientific opinion in 2015. Preparations are ongoing to roll it out through a WHO-led pilot implementation of the malaria vaccine in selected areas of Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. At least 360,000 children in the selected areas will be vaccinated across all 3 countries annually. While the programme is running over the next several years, PATH and GSK are exploring how best to assure the longer-term supply of the vaccine.
Our vaccine is not a silver bullet against malaria – it is designed to complement and work alongside other tools such as bed nets and medicines. We are donating up to 10 million vaccine doses for the pilot implementation of the vaccine – if successful, we have committed to supplying the vaccine at affordable pricing.
Making health systems more robust to fight malaria
When it comes to fighting malaria, we know what can work – preventative tools like bed nets, rapid diagnosis and treatment – but the hard part is making sure people can get access to these interventions where they need them, when they need them.
More health workers are needed to head out into remote communities, teaching them how to put up their bed nets and running rapid diagnostic tests. More healthcare facilities, with reliable supplies of medicines, are vital.