Development of a subunit vaccine against malaria

Development of a subunit vaccine against malaria

Partnering opportunity in infectious disease:

Development of a subunit vaccine against malaria



Professor Alan Cowman, Dr Julie Healer, Dr Lin Chen


Current strategies to fight malaria infection include preventative strategies and antimalarial drugs, but drug resistance against current treatments such as Artemisinin is rising.

Historically, vaccines have offered one of the most effective means of preventing infectious diseases but vaccines against malaria have proven elusive. The most advanced malaria vaccine to date is RTS,S, targeting circumsporozoite protein secreted during the pre-erythrocytic cycle of Plasmodium falciparum. However, RTS,S is only effective in 30% of infants and young children. At present, there is no completely effective vaccine available on the market against malaria.

The technology

We have evaluated a number of potential antigens from the malaria parasite genome and selected three candidates: EBA-175, PfRh5 and PfRipr. Together, these antibodies prevent the invasion of red blood cells by multiple parasite strains in in vitro models.

The combination of the three-subunit antigens can induce antibodies capable of completely blocking P. falciparum invasion in preclinical models. This is the first study to date demonstrating a 100% antibody-mediated inhibition of malaria parasite invasion.


Malaria causes several hundred million infections and approximately one million deaths per year. Almost 600,000 of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and are mainly children under five. In addition, the World Health Organisation estimates that approximately 3.5 billion people (i.e. half of the world’s population) living in 107 countries are at risk of malaria infection.

Intellectual property

We have granted patents to novel compositions in the US and China (US9109040, CNZL201180060526). Applications are pending in multiple other countries.

Opportunity for partnership

We are seeking a partner to co-invest in the clinical testing of a triple subunit malaria vaccine that has the potential to completely protect against malaria infection. We are currently manufacturing GMP-grade material for a Phase I clinical trial in human volunteers, the first step towards assessing whether the pre-clinical data translates to protection against challenge via controlled human malaria infection by blood stage challenge.

Key publications

  • Chen L. et al. An EGF-like protein forms a complex with PfRh5 and is required for invasion of human erythrocytes by Plasmodium falciparum. PLoS Pathog. 2011 Sep;7(9):e1002199 PMID: 21909261
  • Healer J. et al. Vaccination with conserved regions of erythrocyte-binding antigens induces neutralizing antibodies against multiple strains of Plasmodium falciparum. PLoS One. 2013 Sep 10;8(9):e72504 PMID: 24039774
  • Volz JC. et al. Essential Role of the PfRh5/PfRipr/CyRPA Complex during Plasmodium falciparum Invasion of Erythrocytes. Cell Host Microbe. 2016 Jul 13;20(1):60-71 PMID: 27374406


Dr David Segal, Technology Development Associate

Phone: +61 3 9345 2418 Email:


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