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Experimental Vaccine Halves Risk Of Malaria In African Children, Results Of Large Clinical Trial Suggest

“An experimental vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline halved the risk of African children getting malaria in a major clinical trial, making it likely to become the world’s first shot against the deadly disease,” according to a study “presented at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Malaria Forum conference in Seattle and published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine” on Tuesday, Reuters reports. Analysis of data from the first 6,000 children to participate in “a final-stage Phase III clinical trial conducted at 11 trial sites in seven countries across sub-Saharan Africa … found that after 12 months of follow-up, three doses of RTS,S reduced the risk of children experiencing clinical malaria and severe malaria by 56 percent and 47 percent, respectively,” the news service writes (Kelland, 10/18). The vaccine was developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, and the study was partially funded by the Gates Foundation, Inter Press Service notes (Whitman, 10/18).

“In an editorial accompanying the … paper, Nicholas White, a physician at Mahidol University in Bangkok, called the vaccine a ‘great achievement’ but added that it was only ‘partially protective,'” the Wall Street Journal notes (McKay/Whalen, 10/19). “While 47 percent protection is not very effective — most vaccines are not released until they do better than 90 percent — the chief executive of Glaxo, Andrew Witty, noted that even that much protection would save millions of lives over a decade,” according to the New York Times. “The clinical trial is scheduled to continue through 2014 and will include tests on more than 15,000 children, from infancy on up,” the newspaper writes (McNeil, 10/18).

“Witty said the company had already invested $300 million to develop the vaccine and aims to produce it at a low cost with no profit, though he said it was too early to set a price,” Agence France-Presse reports (Sheridan, 10/18). “Glaxo has said it plans to sell it at a profit of five percent over the cost of making it, and that it will invest the profit in research and development for malaria and other neglected diseases,” the Wall Street Journal writes (10/19). 

PBS NewsHour provides video and a transcript of an interview with Witty (10/18). Scientific American reports on three different approaches for developing a malaria vaccine and provides a graphic depicting how these three strategies would work against malaria (10/18).

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