USAID has been a driving force for innovation in malaria vaccine development for more than five decades—evolving from supporting basic research in academic settings to partnering on a broad range of activities, from preclinical testing to conducting clinical trials. In the 1970s, the USAID Malaria Vaccine Development Program (MVDP) supported research that would culminate in the culture of the malaria parasite—an achievement that was one of the most important advances in malaria research in the twentieth century. This groundbreaking research accelerated malaria drug and vaccine development and contributed to other areas of research. Subsequently, USAID MVDP supported work that led to the discovery of a key component of the parasite (the circumsporozoite protein). This discovery enabled the first clinical trial of a peptide-based malaria vaccine and led to the development of the first WHO-recommended vaccine against malaria—RTS,S. 

A Long History of Dedicated Support for Impactful Research and Innovation

USAID MVDP partnered with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) on the development and evaluation of the first vaccines that would target the blood stage of the malaria parasite. These vaccines were tested in malaria-endemic regions in collaboration with PATH in Kenya and  with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Mali. 

USAID MVDP has also supported the development of pre-erythrocytic vaccines at WRAIR and the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC)--including demonstrating the potential of this approach to target and destroy parasites in the liver. In collaboration with Leidos and the University of Oxford, USAID MVDP supported a clinical trial in 2017 of the first blood-stage vaccine to demonstrate a reduction of parasite growth rate in humans, a major clinical achievement for the development of blood-stage based vaccines against malaria.

Driving Progress through Partnerships 

USAID MVDP continues to be a major funder and supporter of malaria vaccine development efforts across the globe. MVDP has developed and sustained essential collaborations and leveraged resources that continue to support malaria vaccine innovation. Current partnerships include interagency agreements with WRAIR, NMRC, and NIAID, and the USAID Innovations in Malaria Vaccine Development (IMV) contract with PATH. 

Through these partnerships, USAID MVDP is actively developing and evaluating novel malaria vaccines targeting the pre-erythrocytic stage of the parasite life cycle to reduce infection with the goal of improving efficacy and durability over RTS,S, as well as vaccines that target the blood-stages of the parasite, which can cause disease in humans. 

USAID MVDP is currently exploring the potential of new vaccine platforms, structure-based antigen design, and multi-stage vaccines to further accelerate progress toward highly efficacious, durable, and affordable malaria vaccines for use as an added tool in control programs in malaria-endemic areas.

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