Houston: A new drug SynriamTM, developed by a team of researchers and considered to be a breakthrough in dealing with cases of malaria, has been approved for treatment of adults in India.

Invented by a team of researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), the medicine is considered to be a significant invention, especially in the wake of traditional drugs increasingly proving ineffective against the deadly malarial parasite.

Jonathan Vennerstrom, who led the international team from 2000 to 2010 to create the drug compound leading to development of Synriam TM, believes the drug will play a key role in reducing the number of deaths due to malaria.

"With more than 200 million cases of malaria each year, the potential impact this drug could have on saving and improving lives worldwide is significant," Vennerstrom, a professor at the UNMC College of Pharmacy, said.

The researcher, who has been studying malaria for more than 25 years, also thanked Geneva-based not-for-profit organisation Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), which provided a grant of over USD 12 million for their project.

"That's been our goal and now we are at the finish line. We were very fortunate to receive the support for our project from MMV," he said.

The research team included scientists from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Switzerland and Monash University in Australia.

"It is always unpredictable whether or not a drug candidate will be successful," Tim Wells, chief scientific officer of MMV, which receives about 60 per cent of its funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said. He said the completion of a phase III study in Indian adults and the approval of the combination by the Indian regulators was a major milestone.

"We look forward to more data from patients in Africa and from studies with children, since this is where the vast majority of the disease," he said.

Courtney Fletcher, dean of the UNMC College of Pharmacy, said another benefit of arterolane, the key component of the new drug, is that it is a synthetic medicine.

"This is an importance advance in anti-malaria drugs. Since it's a synthetic drug, it doesn't depend on the availability of a natural plant source like some other anti-malarials, which also makes it less expensive," said Fletcher.

Taken one tablet a day for three days, the medicine is more effective, cheaper, has fewer side effects and does not need to be taken with food.

Vennerstrom and his team have also developed a second drug candidate that might be even more superior to the first.

It is currently being tested in phase II clinical trials by MMV in Bangkok.

"This drug candidate seems to stay in the body longer, and therefore it may be possible to use a single dose instead of three doses," said Vennerstrom, adding that a single-dose drug can prove useful also in case where a patient forgets to take his medication time to time.


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