email a friend iconprinter friendly iconHigh Performance: Malaria
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Race to the End
A vaccine is our greatest hope to beat back the disease once and for all. The most promising two are now in development. One, called RTS,S, stimulates an immune response in our bodies and has been shown to be 65 percent effective in a three-month trial. Another, called PfSPZ, also works by helping the human body develop immunity, but it amounts to a full-bore assault on the malarial genome. It works by incorporating the parasite’s entire genetic code, rather than just one gene, in its formula, according to Stephen Hoffman, M.D., CEO of Sanaria, the Maryland-based biotechnology company developing the vaccine. "There are about 5,300 genes in the malaria genome," he explains. "But all the other vaccines in development, including RTS,S, are based on just one of those genes. Ours uses all 5,300, so it provides far broader protection." The first clinical trial of PfSPZ begins early this year, and it could be available for human use as soon as 2014. "A vaccine is going to be the best public dollar spent," says Johanna Daily, M.D., a malaria researcher at Harvard Medical School. But even then, she cautions, "it’s going to be a race against the disease to get there."
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