Breakthrough malaria drug approved for treatment in India

Washington: A powerful new drug to treat malaria – invented by a University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy researcher – has been approved for treatment in adults in India.

The new drug, SynriamTM, is considered a breakthrough, as traditional drugs are proving increasingly ineffective against the deadly malarial parasite because of acquired resistance to available drugs.

Taken as a tablet once a day for three days, it`s more effective, cheaper, has fewer side effects and does not have to be taken with food.

From 2000 to 2010, Jonathan Vennerstrom, Ph.D., a professor at the UNMC College of Pharmacy, led an international team that created the drug compound that led to the development of SynriamTM.

Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Limited, the company that developed the medication, also is now working to create a children`s formula and make the drug available in Africa, Asia and South America.

Dr. Vennerstrom and his team received more than 12 million dollars in grants from Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), a non-profit organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He has been studying malaria for more than 25 years. The research team included scientists at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Switzerland and Monash University in Australia. MMV receives about 60 percent of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“With more than 200 million cases of malaria each year, the potential impact this drug could have on saving and improving lives worldwide is significant. That`s been our goal and now we are at the finish line,” Dr. Vennerstrom said.

Tim Wells, MMV`s chief scientific officer, said the completion of a phase III study in Indian adults and the approval of the combination by the Indian regulators was a major milestone.

“We look forward to more data from patients in Africa and from studies with children, since this is where the vast majority of the disease is,” he said.

Courtney Fletcher, Pharm.D., dean of the UNMC College of Pharmacy, said another benefit of arterolane, the key component in the new drug invented by Dr. Vennerstrom, is it`s a synthetic.

“This is an importance advance in antimalaria drugs. Since it`s a synthetic drug, it doesn`t depend on the availability of a natural plant source like some other antimalarials, which also makes it less expensive,” Fletcher noted.

Dr. Vennerstrom and his team also have developed a second drug candidate that might be even more superior than the first. It currently is being tested in phase II clinical trials by MMV in Bangkok, Thailand.

“This drug candidate seems to stay in the body longer, and therefore it may be possible to use a single dose instead of three doses,” Dr. Vennerstrom said.


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