USAID has been a driving force for innovation in malaria vaccine development for more than five decades, evolving from initially supporting basic research in academic settings to now supporting a broad range of activities from preclinical testing to conducting clinical trials. In the 1970s, USAID supported the discovery of methods for the culture of the malaria parasite, an achievement that was arguably the most important advance in malaria research in the twentieth century. This advance accelerated malaria drug and vaccine development and contributed to other areas of research. Subsequently, USAID supported seminal work on a key component of the parasite (the circumsporozoite protein) that enabled the first clinical trial of a peptide-based malaria vaccine and led to the development of the RTS,S vaccine.

The MVDP continues to be a major funder and supporter of malaria vaccine development efforts across the globe. It has forged alliances and leveraged its funds with major research groups that have been leading dedicated malaria vaccine programs, which include the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and Leidos. With WRAIR, USAID supported development and evaluation of blood stage vaccines that were subsequently tested in the field in collaboration with the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) in Kenya and in collaboration with NIAID in Mali. USAID has also supported the development of preerythrocytic vaccines at WRAIR and NMRC, including demonstrating in a series of clinical trials with NMRC the potential of this approach to destroy parasites in the liver. Currently, USAID supports WRAIR’s development of vaccines based on the circumsporozoite protein, the same antigen present in RTS,S, with the hope of improving results. The USAID MVDP is currently exploring the potential of new vaccine designs to further accelerate progress toward highly efficacious, durable, and affordable vaccines.