Africa's lead in malaria fight internationally acknowledged

7 Oct 2013 - 12:45

Dr Kelly Chibale and his team

Medicine makers: Dr Kelly Chibale and his team (Dr Diego Gonzalez Cabrera, Dr Tanya Paquet, Dr Ze Han, Dr Aloysius Nchinda and Dr Leslie Street) share a moment in the laboratory where they are blazing the trail in the fight against malaria.

The UCT-led effort to find a single-dose cure for malaria has been named the 2012 Project of the Year by the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).

Founder and director of the H3-D drug discovery and development centre, Professor Kelly Chibale and his team who were responsible for the discovery, received this accolade at a Malaria Symposium held at UCT in July.

"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," said Chibale.

"We are very excited about the promise shown by MMV390048 against the blood stage of malaria," said Dr Timothy Wells, Chief Scientific Officer at the MMV. "The compound is showing more potency than chloroquine or even artemisinin. The development of MMV390048 shows once again that African scientists are rising to the challenge and taking the lead in malaria drug research," he added.

The three-day Malaria Symposium brought together the most brilliant minds in the fight against malaria was held for the first time in Cape Town, confirming the African continent's increasing prominence in seeking solutions to its own medical problems.

The historic meeting of the expert scientific advisory committee (ESAC) of the MMV came a year after the committee selected the MMV390048 compound for further development. This compound, the first to be researched on African soil, has entered pre-clinical trials and will be ready for human testing in March 2014.

The clinical trials for MMV390048 are expected to take place at UCT's new clinical research facility at Groote Schuur, which will be operational within the next couple of weeks and which will officially be opened later this year.