UofG spinout receives Multi-million EU funding to advance treatment for malaria

October 12, 2021


A University of Glasgow spinout company has received a substantial multi-million Euro award from the European Union (EU) Malaria Fund, to extend their world-leading malaria research into a drug that will hopefully, one day, cure malaria and prevent the disease from spreading.

The newly-established Keltic Pharma Therapeutics Ltd – co-founded by Professor Andrew Tobin, Professor Graeme Milligan and Dr Andrew Jamieson – will build on the recent discovery of a protein called PfCLK3, which is present in the malaria parasite and is essential for it to survive.

Research, led by a team of scientists at the University of Glasgow and published in 2019 in the journal Science, found that inhibiting – or stopping – the activity of the PfCLK3 protein kills the malaria parasite, which prevents it from spreading and also holds the possibility of treating the disease too. Based on this discovery, Keltic Pharma plans to develop a PfCLK3 inhibitor into a drug which could be used for the treatment of malaria.

Malaria is a devastating disease for families and communities, killing around 400,000 people each year, with an estimated two thirds of all malaria deaths among children under the age of five. In particular, the disease imposes a huge healthcare burden on Africa, where access to medical care can be difficult. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stressed the need to continue the efforts against malaria, despite the recent focus on COVID-19.

The EU Malaria Fund is a public-private partnership between the European Union, International Organizations, corporations, and organized civic society, providing a novel funding instrument to address market failures in infectious diseases with significant relevance to public health globally.

Keltic Pharma hopes to build on the founders’ international expertise in a group of proteins called ‘G protein coupled receptors’ (GPCR) to develop other drugs as medicines for a number of human conditions. The EU funding will launch the drug discovery programmes in both malaria and against other potential GPCR targets.