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Merck donates anti-malarial candidate

Merck & Co has announced a licensing agreement with Medicines for Malaria Venture for an investigational drug against malaria for use in the developing world

Merck & Co has announced a licensing agreement with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) for an investigational drug against malaria for use in the developing world .

Under the agreement, Merck, whose researchers discovered the candidate, has granted MMV an exclusive, royalty-free licence to develop it for use in malaria-endemic countries. MMV is a not-for-profit virtual research and development organisation. Merck retains the option to become MMV's development partner upon completion of the first Phase II clinical trial, but has committed not to profit ultimately from its use in developing countries.

"There remains a significant need for the development of novel drugs to treat and prevent life-threatening malaria infections due to the increasing emergence of resistance to current therapies. It is also important that these new drugs are cost-effective and curative after only a few days of therapy," said Dennis M Schmatz, vice president of Merck Research Laboratories. "By partnering with MMV on this project we hope to accelerate the clinical development of this promising candidate to hopefully meet these needs."

The drug is an oral compound, which has been effective against P. falciparum, the organism that causes acute malaria, including multi-drug resistant strains, in preclinical studies. The compound is produced via relatively simple chemical synthesis and demonstrates a high degree of stability. For these reasons, if it is shown to be effective in treating malaria in humans, it should be possible to produce large quantities at low cost.

MMV is currently managing the largest-ever portfolio of antimalarial projects in collaboration with over 100 pharmaceutical, academic, and endemic-country partners in 38 countries. Its portfolio of around 50 projects includes 19 new classes of compounds in the discovery phase. In partnership with Novartis, MMV has recently launched its first product, Coartem Dispersible, a child-friendly formulation of Coartem.

24th March 2009

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