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Malaria research

Press release issued: 1 March 2001

Bristol academic awarded over $5 million for research into anti-malarial drugs

Dr Leo Brady, Reader in Biochemistry at the University of Bristol, has been awarded over $5 million by the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) to develop anti-malarial drugs suitable for clinical trials.

The grant, in collaboration with Glaxo Wellcome (Madrid) and Dr Simon Croft, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, is to run over five years and is one of only three projects awarded worldwide.

Malaria results from infection with a microscopic parasite from the species Plasmodium falciparum, which is usually acquired when blood is transmitted between people by the Anopheles mosquito.

The partnership aims to develop drugs that block a key enzyme within the metabolic pathway of the malaria-causing parasitePlasmodium. By depriving the parasite of its central source of energy it dies. As humans have a similar form of the same enzyme, the challenge is to design drugs that selectively target the parasite enzyme.

The feasibility of the project was established at Bristol several years ago. Collaborative studies between research groups led by Dr Brady and John Holbrook, Professor of Biochemistry, determined the molecular structure of the parasite enzyme lactate dehydrogenase. These studies revealed a unique cleft adjacent to the active site of the enzyme, absent in the human forms, and ideal for the development of new drugs. Subsequent work with Glaxo Wellcome and the London group confirmed that inhibitors of the malarial enzyme selectively kill the parasite in cultured cells.

The project aims to bring closer collaboration between academia and industry. Drug candidates will be synthesised by Glaxo Wellcome, tested against cultured parasites in London, and then brought to Bristol where their way of binding to the enzyme target will be looked at using crystallography and enzymology. The studies at Bristol are central to this molecular design process, providing the vital information, from which improvements are made, in each cycle of the development process.

Dr Brady, commenting on the award, said: 'I am delighted the partnership has received such generous financial support from MMV. Every minute of every day, two people die from malaria. I hope that within five years we will have developed new anti-malarial drugs to combat one of the major diseases of mankind.'

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Copyright: 2001 The University of Bristol, UK
Updated: Thursday, 01-Mar-2001 17:38:57 GMT

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