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Image of the Week: MMV’s Malaria Box

24 Jul, 2015

Malaria Box

Earlier this month, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) won the Open Data Innovation Award, one of five open data awards presented by Tim Berners-Lee’s Open Data Institute. Their ‘Malaria Box’ contains 400 compounds and is available – free – to researchers looking to develop new malaria medicines. In return for the Malaria Box, results from research must be published in the public domain to help others in the field. We asked Timothy Wells, MMV’s Chief Scientific Officer, to tell us more…

At MMV we live at the interface between academia and industry – we’re a Swiss charity, but full of people with industrial experience. We have a goal of catalysing the discovery, development and delivery of new medicines against malaria.

We asked ourselves ‘how can we help to build a world where people share their ideas to help develop medicines against diseases of poverty?” These diseases kill children throughout the world.

Seven years ago, we realised it was possible to test compounds for their activities directly against the malaria parasite, and that advances in miniaturisation meant we could test a compound for as little as $1. That’s a hundred times cheaper than it was a decade ago.

We approached pharmaceutical companies and offered to organise getting their compounds tested – both inside the companies, and with our academic partners.  Six million compounds and some 20 companies later, we found we had 30,000 new hits, or starting points, for malaria projects.

Many of partners allowed us to publish these structures, but we found this was not what people really wanted. Most researchers are biologists and clinicians and they wanted real compounds to test. That’s when we designed our ‘Malaria Box’, pictured pictured above. The Malaria Box contains a distillation of some of the 30,000 ‘hits’, and anyone who wants it can have it to test against their parasite or pathogen.

So far over 200 labs have asked for the Malaria Box, including groups in Africa, South-East Asia and South America. Already several new interesting leads have been identified in other parasites, infectious diseases, and even one idea in cancer. We ask that the research is published in the public domain and we hope that this openness about the ideas and results will lead to new discoveries that will benefit the children of the world.

The Wellcome Trust supports MMV and you can find out more about their Malaria Box on the MMV website.

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