Malaria kills 500,000 people every year. And 90 per cent of those are children. Griffith University researchers are screening hundreds of thousands of compounds supplied by Japanese companies to find the right compound with activity against the malaria parasite.
Japan’s Global Health Innovative Technology Fund is supporting the research as part of their search for new ways to fight malaria.
“GHIT is a fund that invests in partnerships between Japanese and non-Japanese entities,” says BT Slingsby, the Executive Director of GHIT.
“Many of those entities are in Australia including The University of Melbourne, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and Griffith University.”
“Currently we’re working with companies such as Daiichi-Sankyo, Takeda, Mitsubishi Tanabe, and Eisai,” says Griffith University’s Vicky Avery.
They bring those compounds to us. We then dispense them into plates which contain the parasite we’re trying to kill. After they’ve been incubated for a period of time we then look to see whether they’ve had an effect in killing the parasites.
“Once one defines a hit, usually it’s the pharmaceutical company that drives forward the further development of that compound to create a drug.
“This collaboration is fantastic in that it has three groups who complement each other,” Vicky says.
The Japanese pharma companies bring expertise in drug discovery and development. GHIT has managed to pull together significant funding from both global partners as well as the Japanese Government. And Griffith University brings the biology expertise.
Testing for flu, malarial drug resistance, and identifying the Bali bombers are all outcomes of an Australia-Indonesia medical research initiative that begun in 1997 and continues today.
The original Australia-Indonesia Medical Research Initiative agreement between the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) in Melbourne and the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta was conceived and funded by the Indonesian Minister of Research and Technology and the Australian Government, and designed to boost the capacity of the Indonesian labs while enabling more transfer of ideas and skills between the two countries.
A vaccine is the holy grail of malaria control. Alan Cowman, of Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, has discovered proteins that are key to the malaria parasite’s virulence, and therefore a potential vaccine target. He’s been able to weaken live parasites by manipulating their genes. It’s the culmination of over 20 years’ research into malaria and won Alan a $50,000 Victoria Prize.
Photo: Alan Cowman’s research may lead to a vaccine against the malaria parasite, which is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito.
Unhealthy cells are less “squishy” than their healthy counterparts. That difference is used by a small device developed by engineers at Monash University to test living blood cells for diseases, such as malaria and diabetes. The device can then sort the cells for future culturing and experimentation without harming them.
The patented “lab-on-a-chip” and accompanying control system has attracted considerable interest from pharmaceutical companies, according to co-inventor Dr Greg Sheard of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Continue reading Health check for live cells→