The grant from a public-private partnership involving the Japanese government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and a group of pharmaceutical companies will support researchers at UF and international partner organizations working to advance a transmission-blocking vaccine (TBV) to human clinical trials. Associate professor Rhoel Dinglasan and his colleagues previously had identified a protein called alanyl aminopeptidase N (AnAPN1) in the gut of the Anopheles mosquito that the Plasmodium parasite needs to infect the mosquito with malaria. A vaccine that generates antibodies to AnAPN1 in humans would prevent mosquitos that bite a vaccinated human from spreading the parasite.
The new grant will fund the second phase of the project, including efforts by CellFree Sciences and Hamamatsu Pharma Research to develop control antigens and assess the long-term potency of the vaccine in non-human primates. The Seattle-based Infectious Disease Research Institute will continue to provide the adjuvant needed to boost the immune response to the antigen, while UF spinoff Ology Bioservices will develop large-scale process-development and manufacturing plans and supply the AnAPN1 vaccine candidate for use in ongoing pre-clinical studies and subsequent clinical testing and the Centre Pasteur du Cameroun in Cameroon will test the efficacy of antibodies generated in response to AnAPN1 in mice and non-human primates.
According to Dinglasan, the TBV would work in concert with a traditional vaccine being developed by GlaxoSmithKline that is scheduled for pilot implementation in three African countries later this year but does not achieve full protection against the parasite, especially in children.
"Our vaccine should work against all five Plasmodium parasite species that affect human health," said Dinglasan. "This vaccine can help stamp out malaria globally."