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Novartis and nonprofit launch trials of a novel malaria drug

A single-dose alternative advances as parasites develop resistance to complex standard regimens

by Rick Mullin
August 28, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 34

Novartis and the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)have launched patient testing of an antimalarial compound they claim has the potential to treat drug-resistant strains of the malaria parasite. The compound, KAF156, will be tested for efficacy in combination with a new formulation of the existing antimalarial lumefantrine.

The first test is being performed at a center in Mali. The partners plan to follow it with tests at 16 other centers in nine countries in Africa and Asia this year.

KAF156 belongs to a class of antimalarial compounds called imidazolopiperazines. The compound has proved fast acting in Phase IIa clinical trials in clearing both Plasmodium faliciparum and P. vivax parasites, Novartis says.

The push for new antimalarial drugs is in response to recent reports of parasite strains resistant to standard regimens for battling malaria, such as combinations of artemisinin with mefloquine or piperaquine. Moreover, these drugs must be taken once or twice daily over three days, often leading to incomplete courses of treatment. The long-term goal of MMV is the development of single-dose combination therapies.

KAF156 was discovered and developed in a partnership between two Novartis research arms and the Swiss Tropical & Public Health Institute with support from MMV, the Wellcome Trust, and Singapore Economic Development Board.


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