April 02, 2016
2 min read

GHIT Fund to invest millions in malaria, TB, neglected tropical disease interventions

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The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund, a Japanese public-private partnership, announced that it is investing millions of dollars in new interventions against malaria, tuberculosis, soil-transmitted helminth infections and cutaneous leishmaniasis, according to a press release.

“Our new investments in malaria, TB and these neglected tropical diseases send a clear message that [Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT)] and Japan are committed to employing the most innovative and advanced [research and development] tools available to save lives and improve health in the developing world,” BT Slingsby, MD, PhD, MPH, executive director and CEO of GHIT, said in the release.

Funds investigate malaria vaccine, rapid field test

According to the release, the GHIT Fund will allocate $1,383,785 toward an investigational malaria vaccine and diagnostic system capable of detecting asymptomatic infection.

“We will not be able to eradicate malaria if we can’t interrupt disease transmission,” Slingsby said. “And that will require two essential tools: vaccines that interrupt the parasite’s constant movement between humans and mosquitoes, and simple, rapid diagnostic tests that allow us to identify and treat asymptomatic persons who are silently carrying and spreading malaria parasites.”

The funds will support the CellFree-UF transmission-blocking vaccine (TBV), which is being developed by researchers at CellFree Sciences and the University of Florida. The vaccine targets the AnAPN1 protein in mosquitoes that is “critical” for disease transmission from both Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax parasites to humans, the release said.

The remaining malaria funds will support the development of a diagnostic assay for asymptomatic malaria that can be implemented in low-resource field settings and may produce results in less than 10 minutes. The assay will be investigated through collaboration between Panasonic Corp., Juntendo University, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nagasaki University and Malaria No More Japan, along with partners at the Kenya Medical Research Institute. Preliminary findings from a field trial in Uganda indicated that a prototype assay “performed better than current methods,” the release said.

GHIT grants more than $2 million for TB test

The GHIT fund also will invest $2,160,577 in a rapid TB test by Fujifilm Corp. and Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) of Switzerland. The test could potentially identify active TB in urine samples, according to the release. With the investment, researchers will begin test development and assess urine samples from TB patients, particularly those with HIV.

“People with HIV are uniquely vulnerable to tuberculosis, and early detection could be a lifesaver,” Teiichi Goto, corporate vice president and general manager, medical systems of Fujifilm, said in the release. “We are hopeful that our work with FIND to develop a rapid TB test that requires only a urine sample could be a significant development for millions of people around the world who must cope with both of these deadly diseases.”

New treatments for neglected tropical diseases

Finally, GHIT will invest $1,690,711 for the development of new treatments for cutaneous leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease transmitted to humans through bites of infected sandflies, and soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) infections, which are transmitted by parasitic worms.

The funds will help to support a collaborative effort between the global health nonprofit organization PATH, Meiji Seika Pharma, Ajinomoto and the University of Massachusetts Medical School that aims to develop a treatment for STH infections based on the Cry5B protein. WHO estimates that more than 880 million children require treatment for the disease and are at risk for chronic physical and cognitive conditions, the release said.

The remaining funds will be distributed to GeneDesign and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative for the development of a new leishmaniasis treatment, according to the release. The treatment could replace current drugs that have been used since the 1940s and are toxic, difficult to administer, expensive and sometimes ineffective.

Disclosures: Slingsby is the executive director and CEO of GHIT. Goto is an employee of Fujifilm Corp.