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Bayer and MMV to develop new malaria vaccine

LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - Bayer and "Medicines for Malaria Venture" (MMV), a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative financed by the World Bank and private foundations, have signed an agreement to develop a new malaria medicine based on the active ingredient artemisone.

The new substance, for which Bayer holds patent rights, is the result of a research alliance between Bayer and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Studies to date show that artemisone is very well tolerated, is 20 to 30 times more effective and has a much more rapid onset of action than previously used substances.

The manufacturers are therefore aiming for a short duration of therapy of one to three days. Clinical trials are scheduled to begin in 2003, while the first market launch of artemisone tablets is planned for 2005.

Under the terms of the cooperation agreement, Bayer will assume product development duties and supply the finished product, while WHO/MMV will be responsible for monitored distribution in the developing countries' health systems. The price in this market sector is to be set at a level that would allow all segments of the population who suffer from malaria in the developing countries to receive treatment.

Bayer will market the product in the industrialized countries.

"Our organization was created out of the conviction that public/private partnerships can be the right way to successfully combat such scourges of humanity as malaria," explains MMV Chairman Christopher Hentschel.

The demand for malaria treatment concepts remains high. Between 300 and 500 million people become infected with malaria each year, and the disease almost exclusively affects developing countries. Of the one to three million people who die of malaria each year, most are children under five years of age.

The demand for new treatment options is likely to continue to rise in the coming years due to increasing resistance to currently used medicines. About 2.5 billion people live in regions where there is a risk of contracting malaria.

Last year Bayer pledged to supply its products Germanin (active ingredient: suramin) and Lampit (active ingredient: nifurtimox) free of charge to the WHO for an initial period of five years. The WHO wants to use these medicines to combat African sleeping sickness, which threatens 60 million people on that continent.

Posted: May 2002