GHIT Fund Announces New Investments: A Total of 740 Million Yen for Malaria Drugs and Vaccine
The Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund announced today a total of approximately 740 million yen (US$6.4 million*) to invest in three partnerships to develop new lifesaving tools for malaria.** (Appendix 1 & 2)
“We are very pleased to invest in new product development for malaria. Existing innovations alone are not sufficient to combat malaria,” said GHIT CEO Osamu Kunii. “Continuous R&D efforts for new innovations are essential for malaria elimination. We hope that these new innovations will be important tools in the malaria elimination strategy and bring greater impact for patients.”
Preclinical development of a monoclonal antibody to prevent P. falciparum malaria
GHIT will invest 539 million yen (US$4.7 million) for the development of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for malaria prevention. The project is enabled by access to a panel of potent anti-CSP mAbs, identified from volunteers who were protected against P. falciparum challenge following immunization with RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S), the world’s first malaria vaccine recommended for use in young children living in areas of moderate to high malaria transmission by the World Health Organization (WHO). RTS,S functions primarily by inducing high titer antibodies to the invariant repeat region of the P. falciparum CS protein. Highly potent monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) in protective antisera are likely to be promising tools for malaria intervention.
Development of a Plasmodium vivax multistage vaccine effective both for protection and transmission locking
GHIT will invest 69.8 million yen (US$604K) in the development of a highly effective and durable next-generation multistage/multispecies malaria vaccine that is effective against both pre-erythrocytic stage and sexual-stage P. falciparum and P. vivax parasites.
Hit-to-Lead development of novel Astellas compounds with antimalarial activity
Finally, GHIT will invest 131 million yen (US$1.1 million) in identification of lead compound series with antimalarial activity that has clear potential for further development and progression to lead optimization. Previous project supported by GHIT, four novel hit compounds with antimalarial activity were identified from screening of Astellas’s 20,000 compounds. The compounds will be designed to explore both structure activity relationships and scope for structural modification to improve the compound profile such as potency, DMPK, and safety.
As of March 31, there are 61 ongoing projects, including 28 discovery, 21 preclinical and 12 clinical trials, in the GHIT portfolio (Appendix 3). The total amount of investments since 2013 is 27.6 billion yen (US$239 million).
* USD1 = JPY¥115.59, the approximate exchange rate on February 28, 2022.
** These awarded projects were selected from a number of proposals to the RFP2021-002 for Target Research Platform, Screening Platform, Hit-to-Lead Platform, and Product Development Platform, which was open for applications from June 2021 to January 2022. The GHIT board conducted in February 2022 approved these new investments.