Researchers have managed to raise enough money to test a breakthrough malaria vaccine in humans, but say their fight over finances highlights lingering problems with funding medical research.
The Institute for Glycomics at Griffith University has developed a malaria vaccine that can be freeze-dried, allowing it to be transported and stored without refrigeration. This greatly expands its potential for use in the developing world, where malaria remains entrenched.
Researchers have now raised $1.34 million – enough to proceed with a Phase 1 clinical trial in human volunteers – after partnering with Australian Rotary clubs and receiving grants from the federal government’s Medical Research Future Fund , as well as individual donations.
Lead researcher Danielle Stanisic said she was very happy to be able to take the next stage of research to see if the vaccine is effective in humans.
But Dr Stanisic said the fact that it took five years to raise the funding contrasted with funding for the COVID-19 vaccines, which were rolled out in less than a year.
“When you have funding, research moves forward, and we’ve seen that with COVID vaccines over the past two years,” she said.
“A lot of funding went into vaccine research because it was an immediate problem for everyone around the world.”
Dr Stanisic said she did not regret the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, but said other diseases, such as malaria, also needed funding to prevent large numbers of deaths.
“I think it’s easy in Australia to forget that there are diseases like malaria that disproportionately affect poorer countries,” she said. “And it’s not getting better – the deaths are going up every year, they’re not going down.”