- Written by Queen Munguti for KenyaKidz
In a bid to eradicate malaria globally, pharmaceutical company, Novartis in collaboration with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) has launched a trial for its antimalarial compound called KAF156, which has the potential to treat drug-resistant strains of the malaria parasite.
"This new milestone underscores our company's long-standing commitment to the fight against malaria.With nearly half of the world's population at risk, malaria continues to be a major public health challenge. Developing new antimalarial medicines is critical to achieving malaria elimination. Innovative science continues to be our best weapon against the disease," said Vas Narasimhan, Global Head of Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer, Novartis.
In Kenya, malaria is the second leading cause of death accounting for 16,000 deaths in 2016 and kills almost half a million people every year globally. Therefore for Novartis to introduce a compound that has the potential to clear malaria infection, including resistant strains, as well as to block the transmission of the malaria parasite, it could save lives.
The first trial center for the KAF156 is already operational in Mali and will be followed by sixteen additional centers across a total of nine countries in Africa and Asia over the next few months.
"To build on the gains made against malaria since the turn of the century, we need new medicines that are effective across all types of resistance patterns and geographies, and that are easy to administer, especially to children," said Dr David Reddy, CEO of MMV.
"With the phase IIb trial of KAF156-lumefantrine now underway, the MMV-Novartis partnership is drawing closer to the exciting prospect of such a new medicine that would be a powerful tool to fight the disease."
In Mali, malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality especially among children under the age of five and in Africa as a whole, a child dies every minute to 45 seconds due to the disease.
"Malaria is a major public health concern in Mali - especially for children. Thus, the need for novel antimalarials is urgent. Because it is a new compound with the potential to treat malaria including strains resistant to currently used antimalarials, we are particularly motivated to run the KAF156 patient trial at our site in Mali,” said Dr. Bakary Fofana, clinical trial investigator at the Malaria Research and Training Center in Bougoula - Hameau.