December 04, 2020
Sustainability Topics
Malaria is an infectious disease that is caused by the Plasmodium parasite and is transmitted between humans and mosquitoes. The disease is accompanied by repeated episodes of severe high fever and may result in death if not treated appropriately. In 2018, almost half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria, but the burden of disease is in Africa. Again, in 2018, there were an estimated 228 million cases of malaria and approximately 405,000 deaths. In addition, the appearance of Plasmodium parasites resistant to many existing antimalarial drugs has been reported, posing a threat to malaria control efforts. To halt the spread of drug-resistant malaria, there is a need for new drug combinations targeting new parasite mechanisms and which, therefore, combat field resistance.

Recently, Daiichi Sankyo signed a joint research agreement with the non-profit public-private partnership Medicines for Malaria Venture (“MMV”) to screen compounds against new Plasmodium biological targets. The goal of this project, involving Daiichi Sankyo and two other pharmaceutical companies, is to identify new compounds with antimalarial activity based on novel mechanisms from compound libraries owned by the three participating companies. The project has been adopted as a screening program of the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (“GHIT Fund”).

In this project, three compound libraries, each containing approximately 20,000 compounds, will be provided by the participating companies to MMV, and the compounds will be screened for activity against two plasmodial targets: Plasmodium falciparum CLK3 and Acetyl CoA synthetase. These targets have been validated in recent years, and the screening aims to find seed compounds for developing next-generation antimalarial drugs based on these novel mechanisms.

Through initiatives to create innovative pharmaceuticals and improve medical access in developing countries, which includes this joint research project for the search for antimalarials, Daiichi Sankyo continues to contribute to achieving “Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages” of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations member states. We remain committed to our mission of contributing to the enrichment of quality of life around the world through these initiatives.

The GHIT Fund is a Japan-based international public-private partnership fund (PPP) between the Government of Japan, multiple pharmaceutical companies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The GHIT Fund invests and manages an R&D portfolio of development partnerships aimed at neglected diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases that afflict the world’s vulnerable and underserved populations. The GHIT Fund mobilizes the Japanese industry, academia, and research institutes to create new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics for malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases, in collaboration with global partners.