Developing malaria treatments
Although malaria is both preventable and treatable, it continues to take a high toll, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) have become the standard of care for malaria, yet the emergence of first signs of resistance to artemisinin, the key compound in current standard treatments (ACTs) in parts of Asia, has highlighted the need for new drugs.
Over the last five years, Novartis scientists have discovered two new classes of antimalarials. If successfully developed, the new compounds would be the first new antimalarials in many years not belonging to the artemisinin class, and provide a completely new option to treat the disease.
Both compounds are currently in Phase II clinical trials. The most advanced, known as KAE609, belongs to a new class of antimalarials 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 new compound discovered by Novartis — known as KAF156 — belongs to the imidazolopiperazines or IZPs class. It targets the malaria parasite at both stages.
Discovery and early development of KAE609 and KAF156 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 and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) in Basel.
In November 2013, Novartis and collaborators announced the discovery of yet another new malaria drug target and a new compound class with potential to prevent, block and treat malaria.