Novartis has been committed to the fight against malaria for more than two decades. In 1999 we launched the first fixed-dose Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) and in 2009 the first dispersible pediatric ACT developed in partnership with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). Today we are working on the development of the next generation of antimalarials to address the ever-growing threat of parasite resistance.
Over the past 20 years, together with our partners, we have delivered nearly 1 billion treatments, including over 430 million pediatric treatments to malaria-endemic countries.
Despite the tremendous progress made in combating malaria, one child still dies from the disease every two minutes. Novartis is committed to contributing to the WHO’s target of reducing malaria-related child mortality by at least 90% in 2030. As part of the PAMAfrica research consortium led by Medicines for Malaria Venture, we initiated the development of a new formulation of our ACT for infants weighing less than 5 kilograms. This is one of the most vulnerable groups affected by malaria, for whom there is currently no approved treatment.
Working on the next generation of antimalarials
"Resistance to treatment presents the biggest threat to the incredible progress that has been made in the fight against malaria in the past 20 years. We cannot afford to wait; this is why we are committing to advance the research and development of next-generation treatments," said Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis.
Drug discovery efforts at the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) have delivered an industry-leading pipeline of drug candidates to address the emerging threat of resistance. Two antimalarials in development, KAF156 and KAE609, offer new mechanisms of action against the disease and have the potential for simplified therapeutic regimens over current treatments. Novartis leads the development of KAF156 with scientific and financial support from Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The development of KAE609 is led by Novartis with financial support from the Wellcome Trust. Both KAF156 and KAE609 are included in WANECAM 2 and PAMAfrica consortia respectively, funded by the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership to support capacity building in Africa.
In 2020, NITD discovered another novel malaria therapy, INE963, which has an entirely new mechanism of action. The molecule was developed with support from Medicines for Malaria Venture and received the organization’s “Project of the Year” award in 2020.
Europe-Africa partnership spearheads development of next-generation antimalarial drug.
We aim to extend our contribution to areas beyond treatment. In Nigeria, we are working with partners to strengthen access to diagnosis and treatment at patent and proprietary medicine vendor (PPMV) shops for children under age 5 with malaria. We expect to expand to additional countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in the coming years.
In India, under the umbrella of the Novartis Healthy Family program (Arogya Parivar), we started a malaria screening campaign in Odisha state, a highly endemic area that bears almost a quarter of the country’s malaria burden. Patients diagnosed with malaria receive a prescription and are advised to visit the nearest government health clinic for treatment and follow-up. We also provided education at Healthy Family health camps on the higher risk of malaria transmission during monsoon periods.
Local insights and learnings are key to accelerating progress
In order to bring voices from local malaria experts – from government, the research community and NGOs – in the global debate, we commissioned an opinion research in sub-Saharan and Central Africa, and in five countries in South and Southeast Asia on progress and challenges toward the 2030 malaria elimination goals. Despite differences, the MalaFA (Malaria Futures for Africa/Asia) reports identify common challenges such as the need for increased domestic financing; training new cohorts of healthcare workers in malaria care; and continued investment in R&D to effectively fight insecticide and ACT resistance.