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Australian-made malaria vaccine all the buzz -

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Australian-made malaria vaccine all the buzz in US

Bronwyn Herbert reported this story on Wednesday, July 29, 2009 12:42:00

PETER CAVE: Australian scientists have developed the world's first genetically-modified strain of
malaria that will now be used as a live vaccine against the disease.

Human trials of the vaccine will start in the United States early next year.

Malaria kills more than one million people each year, most of them children.

Bronwyn Herbert spoke to Professor Alan Cowman from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in
Melbourne. He is leading the international research team

ALAN COWMAN: We can now delete the genes from the parasite at will and essentially cripple it and
that's what the vaccine that we are going to test in human trials in February. It is essentially a
crippled parasite, malaria parasite that cannot cause disease.

These clinical trials will enable us to hopefully show that it works and then we will go onto the
next step.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Professor Cowman, are you confident the vaccine will be safe for humans?

ALAN COWMAN: Previously, people have been infected in the same way with malaria parasites but not
genetically modified malaria parasites and so all of those trials previously have been very safe.

But essentially this trial is to do two things. One is to work out safety but also to challenge the
volunteers and determine whether they are protected.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Why is the research or the trials with humans taking place in the United States?

ALAN COWMAN: Because the Walter Reed Army Institute have a lot of experience in doing these sort of
trials. They have the insectary where we can send the malaria parasite that we've constructed in
the laboratory and they can infect mosquitoes and then allow them to infect people.

So they can do the human trials. They have a lot of experience in it whereas we do not have the
insectary in Australia that enables us to do that.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Have you got any idea yet what it would actually cost to produce this type of
vaccine?

ALAN COWMAN: No, at this stage we haven't. We haven't got to that point. Really this is principle
to really work out whether the vaccine works in the way that we think it will. We know it works
very well in mice.

All mice that have been vaccinated have been protected against malaria. We need to now test it in
humans and make sure it works well there and is safe and considerations of cost will come after
that.

BRONWYN HERBERT: From here, what are the main challenges in rolling out this type of vaccine into
parts of the world like sub-Saharan Africa most affected by this killer disease?

ALAN COWMAN: There is still huge challenges. One of the issues is delivery of the vaccine like this
and that is a very big challenge because this is essentially a live vaccine that will need to be
stabilised and stored at low temperatures so to deliver that sort of vaccine to countries in
Africa, villages in Africa really is a huge logistical problem that will need to solved.

However again the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are spending a lot of money in research to try
and develop ways that stabilise vaccines such as this so that they can be stored at higher
temperatures such as room temperature and still be effective.

The amount of money that the Gates Foundation is spending on malaria research and developing new
drugs and malaria vaccines, it really is starting to have an effect and this is a, it's a very
exciting time to be in this area.

PETER CAVE: Professor Alan Cowman from Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical
Research, speaking there to Bronwyn Herbert.