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The Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) has laid out plans for creating a new set of antimalarial drugs, according to its five-year plan launched in conjunction with the Global Malaria Action Plan last week (25 September).

The organisation hopes to obtain approval for a new paediatric artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) by the end of 2008 from theSwiss Agency of Therapeutic Products.

Two more ACTs, Eurartesim and Pyramax, are expected to be approved by the European Medicines Agency by 2010, MMV vice-president for public affairs Anna Wang, told SciDev.Net.

Once all three drugs have received approval, Wang anticipates that it will be only a few months before malaria-endemic countries can start using the treatments.

Coartem Dispersible — the paediatric ACT developed with pharmaceutical firm Novartis — is already being used in 13 African countries where it has received government approval, including Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

MMV will also accelerate the development of new treatments, particularly those that can replace the artemisinin class of drugs if and when resistance to these compounds develops.

Wang gives the example of a potential drug in the Ozonide family. "It is entirely synthetic, it mimics the fast-acting artemisinin, it seems relatively simple to make and it is not plant-based like artemisinin drugs."

"There are signs that a one-dose cure may be possible — this would make a huge impact on the treatment of malaria," she says.

In addition, MMV will conduct more clinical studies in specialist groups like pregnant women and small children, and pursue cures for Plasmodium vivax infections.

MMV has budgeted US$600 million for its activities in the next five years. Wang estimates that US$470 million of this is still to be raised to accomplish the goals of MMV's business plan.

"Our annual budget will go from around US$75 million this year to nearly US$170 million in 2012."

"We are also now aggressively ramping up our activities in fundraising as this would not be possible without significant increases in our coffers," she says.

Donors, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and various governments, have already committed US$130 million.

Wang estimates it will cost around US$420 million to develop a new combination therapy for malaria, including the cost of failures.

"This is less than half of what the industry spends on a single new drug; this is largely due to the in-kind contribution of our partners."