Melbourne-based medtech AdAlta (ASX: 1AD) has announced a breakthrough discovery that it says could be the key to combating malaria, a disease that afflicts about 250 million people a year.
The clinical-stage company, in collaboration with La Trobe University, says that in a world first it has discovered a new family of ‘i-bodies’ capable of inhibiting the invasion of red blood cells and liver cells by multiple strains of the malaria parasite.
“Until now, no antibody-like molecule has combined the ability to bind strongly to multiple strains of malaria parasite with high potency killing,” says La Trobe University’s Professor Mick Foley and AdAlta’s founding chief scientist.
“This variability between strains has plagued all previous attempts to produce a single antibody that can inhibit parasite invasion.
“When combined with protecting cells from invasion at two different life cycle stages of the parasite, the new i-body confers the real possibility we may be able to bring forward a new approach to treating malaria.”
AdAlta has lodged a patent for its discovery with the results of AdAlta’s in vitro studies published in pre-print form by the Nature Communications journal pending peer review.
The key finding through the studies is the discovery of i-bodies that bind with high affinity to parts of the malaria protein known as AMA1 that are constant across all strains of the disease.
AMA1 is critical to enabling invasion of malaria parasites into red blood cells and, at a different stage of their lifecycle, liver cells, making it the lead malaria vaccine candidate for scientists to combat the disease.
“This breakthrough finding in malaria is in quite a different target class and therapeutic area from our other programs, adding further value to our intellectual property portfolio and another asset with commercial potential,” says AdAlta’s CEO Dr Tim Oldham.
AdAlta says that until now there has been no AMA1 antibody developed that both recognises all strains of malaria parasites and is a ‘strong inhibitor of invasion’.
The company notes that malaria is a significant burden on global health with the latest report from the World Health Organisation revealing there were 247 million cases globally in 2021 leading to 691,000 deaths.
After filing applications to protect its intellectual property, AdAlta says it is now looking for collaborators and grants to further develop the technology.
AdAlta raised $4.8 million from investors in two campaigns this year, the most recent in November, to help fund ongoing studies by the company.
Chairman Paul MacLeman told shareholders at the recent annual general meeting that the company continuously explores ‘opportunities to attract non-dilutive funding to make every shareholder dollar go as far as possible’. These include government grants.
AdAlta’s i-body platform is also being used to explore treatments for several chronic health conditions including pulmonary fibrosis.
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