The World’s First Malaria Vaccine Is Almost Here, and Will Be Entirely Not-For-Profit
Makers of the “Mosquirix” inoculations promise that any money earned will go solely to making the drug even more effective.
image via (cc) flickr user john tann
An estimated two hundred million people are infected with the malaria parasite annually. Hundreds of thousands of those infected are eventually killed by the disease, making its mosquito carriers the deadliest animals on earth. It is disproportionately fatal to children, and has long been the scourge of medics and health care workers, as well as economists, who estimate the total costs associated with the ongoing fight against the disease to be in the billions.
Thankfully, its days may soon be numbered.
This past week, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline announced that their experimental vaccine Mosquirix (also known as RTS,S) has been green-lit by the European Medicines Agency, thereby clearing a major hurdle on the drug’s way of being put into use. GSK claims theirs is the first malaria vaccine to have ever reached this milestone. And while Mosquirix still faces World Health Organization approval before it can be applied across infected regions, the drug is already being discussed as a monumental achievement in the fight against a devastating disease. Speaking with Reuters, GSK scientist Joe Cohen did not mince words: “I have absolutely no reservations in terms of rolling this vaccine out. Why? Because the efficacy, when translated into cases averted and deaths averted, is just tremendous. It will have an enormously significant public health impact.”
Mosquirix is the product of decades of research done in partnership between GSK and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, with funding provided in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, reports the BBC. The drug is designed specifically to fight malaria’s parasitic infection in children. Per a release from GSK, the drug was shown to have reduced cases of the disease by anywhere from 25 to over 50 percent, depending on the age of the child at the time of their first injection and subsequent booster shots.
image via (cc) flickr user usarmyafrica
Perhaps just as exciting as the prospect of finally having an inoculative method to prevent, and not just simply treat, malaria is GSK’s pledge that Mosquirix will be entirely non-profit. Instead, the injections will be priced at production cost plus a small mark-up, which will be used to fund research toward more effective iterations of the drug. Sources for Reuters predict this will likely cost in the neighborhood of $5 per injection, in a series of four.
Next, the drug’s makers must submit a series proposals to the World Health Organization. Should the WHO approve the treatment, the door would then be open for GSK to approach individual countries in regards to incorporating the vaccine into their malaria treatment programs. Explains GSK CEO Sir Andrew Witty:
Today’s scientific opinion represents a further important step towards making available for young children the world's first malaria vaccine. While RTS,S on its own is not the complete answer to malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently available such as bed nets and insecticides, would provide a very meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria on children in those African communities that need it the most. The work doesn’t stop here and GSK remains committed to investing in R&D for malaria vaccines and treatments to find more ways to tackle this devastating disease.
So while a fully effective vaccine is still likely a ways away, today we are closer than ever to finally curbing the spread of malaria, once and for all.
An earlier version of this post mistakenly labled Malaria as a virus, and not a parasite.