Developing malaria treatments
Although malaria is both preventable and treatable, it continues to take a high toll, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. While artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) have been instrumental in controlling the disease, the emergence of resistance to ACTs in parts of Asia has highlighted the urgent need for new drugs.
Novartis scientists have discovered two new classes of antimalarials in the last two years. One promising compound, known by the research number NITD609, completed an initial clinical study and began a Phase II clinical trial during 2011. NITD609 belongs to a new class of antimalarial compounds known as spiroindolones that work by suppressing protein synthesis in malaria parasites, a novel mechanism of action.
To eliminate malaria, scientists believe future antimalarials will have to work against both the blood and liver stages of malaria: parasites first infect the liver before moving to red blood cells. The second class of compounds discovered by Novartis — known as imidazolopiperazines or IZPs — targets the malaria parasite at both stages. Clinical testing of the Novartis IZP is expected to begin in 2012.
Discovery and early development of NITD609 and the IZP class were the result of pooled resources and efforts of scientists at the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) in Singapore, the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in La Jolla, California, and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) in Basel, Switzerland, as well as external collaborators.