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Thinking Inside the Malaria Box: Seeking Your Ideas for New Malaria Treatments

  • Omar Vandal, Oct 19, 2012

Opportunities to share knowledge and collaborate are critical to breakthrough discoveries.

Imagine you were given a box that contained a solution to eradicate one of the world's most deadly infectious diseases: malaria. All that was required of you was to harness your creativity and ingenuity to sift through that box and discover a solution that could help save hundreds of thousands of lives.

A box containing the solution to a deadly disease may sound like fiction. But such an opportunity for malaria may be much closer to reality than you think. Medicines for Malaria Ventures (MMV) has made available to the research community a "box" of hundreds of promising anti-malarial molecules so that the next generation of malaria medicines can be discovered. Thanks to the vision of our partners at MMV, researchers like you have an unprecedented opportunity to expedite the discovery of new anti-malarial drugs.

In 2010, malaria infected an estimated 216 million people worldwide and caused 655,000 deaths.[1] Eradication of malaria is one of the Gates Foundation's top priorities, and eradication rests heavily on the discovery of new antimalarial drugs. These new drugs will be crucial tools for driving down transmission and preventing a reintroduction of malaria until the disease incidence is reduced to zero worldwide.[2]

The ideal new drugs for malaria are ones that kill the various life-stages of the malaria parasite, including latent forms in the liver, can cure malaria with a single administration, and are very safe, and therefore perhaps suitable for mass drug administration.(For additional information see, The malERA Consultative Group on Drugs (2011). A Research Agenda for Malaria Eradication: Drugs. PLoS Med. 2011; 8).

To help researchers tackle the challenge of discovering new malaria medicines, MMV reviewed thousands of anti-malarial molecules discovered by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline and selected the best 400 of these to form a "Malaria Box" ). The Malaria Box represents a broad cross section of chemical diversity, and includes 200 drug-like compounds as starting points for oral drug discovery as well as 200 probe-like compounds. In what constitutes a call to arms for eradicating malaria, MMV is making available the Malaria Box to researchers proposing innovative approaches to analyzing, characterizing, and prioritizing these compounds for the development of next generation anti-malarial drugs. For those projects that demonstrate a critical need to analyze a more extensive compound set, GlaxoSmithKline will make available the 13,500 compounds that comprise the Tres Cantos Anti-Malarial Set (TCAMS). In order to foster even further research, recipients of these compound collections are required to make publicly available the results of their work.

Discovery of a next generation malaria medicines is a grand challenge. Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) was created to tackle challenges of this magnitude by supporting new and bold approaches to problems. Earlier this year, we at the foundation collaborated with not-for-profit and industry partners to create the New Approaches for the Interrogation of Anti-Malarial Compounds topic . This is an exciting example of how a variety of partners can collaborate with the research community to tackle our biggest challenges in global health.

We want to engage the best minds and support innovative ideas, regardless of discipline. So we're calling on a broad range of innovators, from members of the malaria research community, to non-malariologists with expertise in biomedical engineering, computational biology, and chemistry to apply for this call for ideas. Be inspired by checking out the first group of winning ideas from Round 9, which will be announced on November 1, 2012.

Apply now for a GCE grant and help us discover new antimalarial drugs that can help eradicate malaria.

What's YOUR big idea?


[1] http://www.cdc.gov/MALARIA/

[2] A Research Agenda for Malaria Eradication: Drugs. The malERA Consultative Group of Drugs. PLoS Medicine. 2011

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