Pfizer Pfizer Inc and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MVV) have signed an agreement that is designed to facilitate advancements in the battle against malaria, a disease that afflicts vulnerable populations in the developing world each year.

Under the agreement, MMV will have access to the Pfizer library of novel chemical entities, in order to screen it for compounds that have the potential to be developed into new treatments for malaria.

Malaria causes an estimated 881,000 deaths each year, of which over 90 per cent are in Africa and 85 per cent are children under five years of age.

"People are suffering in developing countries and we want to help by sharing resources and boosting research against tropical diseases," said Dr Rod MacKenzie, senior vice president of Research, Pfizer Global Research & Development. "Although this is early-stage research, which means that effective new treatments may only begin to be developed several years from now, it improves the chances of identifying compounds that may lead to new drugs. We believe public-private research collaborations are vital to tackling health challenges in developing countries, and we are confident our collaboration with MMV will further aid in the search for drugs with the potential to treat malaria."

Under the agreement, scientists in institutes affiliated with MMV will test approximately 200,000 compounds in the Pfizer library against P falciparum, the parasite that causes acute malaria, including multi-drug resistant strains. In a process called screening, researchers will seek to identify compounds that show initial activity against P falciparum, and thus might form the basis for novel drug discovery programs to treat malaria. The screening will be undertaken at the Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.

Building on a strong R&D portfolio, a new business structure to be even closer to the customer, a commitment to meeting the diverse medical needs of the world in an innovative and socially responsible manner, and its decades of philanthropic activities, Pfizer has committed valuable resources to the fight against malaria and is dedicated to closing the malaria treatment gap. Pfizer's existing malaria product portfolio may be augmented with the artemisinin combination therapy Eurartesim (in collaboration with sigma-tau), which is in late-stage clinical trials. Pfizer also has an ongoing azithromycin/chloroquine clinical programme.

"We are creating partnerships to improve the quality of healthcare and access to medicines for patients in the developing world," stated Jean-Michel Halfon, president & general manager of Pfizer's Emerging Markets Business Unit. "We cannot solve the problem alone, but are stepping forward to be a part of the solution."

MMV has recently enlarged its mission to include the search for new antimalarial medicines that will contribute to the ultimate eradication of malaria. "This agreement with Pfizer will allow us to identify any promising compounds with antimalarial activity from their unique and extensive library of new chemical entities," said Dr Chris Hentschel, president and CEO of MMV. "To eradicate malaria the world needs new medicines that will not only treat and cure P falciparum malaria, but also P vivax malaria, a rare form of the disease that is very difficult to cure. In addition, new drugs are needed to tackle emerging resistance, and stop parasite transmission from infected individuals. Having the opportunity to screen a wide array of compounds in the Pfizer library will help MMV build a strong pipeline of potential new anti-malarials."

Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) was established in 1999 as a not-for-profit organization created to discover, develop and deliver safe, effective and affordable anti-malarial drugs through effective public-private partnerships.