Omaha Public Radio News
3:17 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

UNMC researcher leads the effort to develop single-dose malaria drug

Omaha, NE – Recently, researchers at UNMC discovered a next-generation malaria drug candidate.

Dr. Jonathan Vennerstrom, a Professor in UNMC's College of Pharmacy, led the team on the chemistry part of the project. He says the drug is now in Phase II-A Clinical Trials. Dr. Vennerstrom says this will be the first time the drug is tested. He says malaria patients in Cambodia and Thailand will be the first to receive the new single-dose drug. Currently, malaria patients must take three consecutive daily doses of the first-generation drug. Dr. Vennerstrom says compliance becomes much easier when you only have to take one dose of a medication. He says, the team "had to use a new chemical reaction to come up with a synthetic substitute for a very interesting natural product that was discovered in a plant in China in the late 70's. The idea behind our project was to come up with a less expensive and more readily available substitute for this product that could be easily administered and could become widely available."

Dr. Vennerstrom says because 90% of malaria cases occur in Africa, amongst impoverished populations, a single-dose drug is more cost-effective for those who have to take the medicine.