Two of PATH’s leading female scientists were recently honored for their contributions to global health: Tala de los Santos, MBA, MS, as a Washington Global Health Alliance (WGHA) Rising Leader, and Manjari Lal, PhD, with a 2014 William Hunting Award. We’re proud to support the outstanding achievements of our technical teams, who often work “behind the scenes” to develop and advance transformative health care innovations for public health impact.
Part two: Today we feature Dr. Manjari Lal.
Manjari Lal, PhD
Manjari Lal, PhD, one of PATH’s scientists working in vaccine and pharmaceutical technologies, was recently awarded the 2014 William Hunting Award for her and her team’s crucial work to develop a heat-stable fast-dissolving tablet (FDT) formulation of Newcastle disease vaccine.
Each year, Veterinary Record, the prestigious peer-reviewed journal of the British Veterinary Association, bestows the Hunting Award to a research paper considered to have made the most useful contributions to veterinary science. The award-winning paper, “Development of a Low-Dose Fast-Dissolving Tablet Formulation of Newcastle Disease Vaccine for Low-Cost Backyard Poultry Immunisation,” was penned by Manjari, as lead author, in collaboration with authors from the University of Washington, the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory of the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicine.
Newcastle disease is viral and highly contagious. It is capable of destroying entire chicken populations in a short period of time, and it has been identified as one of the biggest threats to rural poultry and livelihoods globally. It can also be transmitted to humans. The technical work described within Manjari’s paper reflects one of the many ways PATH is helping to build the evidence base for needle-free and thermotolerant vaccine and drug delivery technologies of critical importance to human and animal health in developing countries.
“Vaccines and essential medicines take up a lot of space. They involve many packaging and delivery parts, especially if they need to be refrigerated and/or reconstituted with a diluent prior to administration with a needle and syringe. By simplifying the equation, for example, by formulating vaccines as heat-stable tablets that can be swallowed or dissolved under the tongue, we believe we can achieve even greater public health impact in low-resource settings,” explains Manjari.
Manjari moved to the United States from India in 1995 through an exchange program for young scientists. Although she originally dreamed of being a medical doctor and helping people in a clinical setting, she hit her stride in bench research and stayed in the US to pursue additional opportunities. When Manjari interviewed with PATH in 2008, she says she knew immediately, “this is the place where I want to be.” At PATH, she could leverage her expertise in the biomedical sciences to improve health outcomes.
Manjari and her team have additionally developed fast-dissolving tablet (FDT) formulations for an enteric diarrheal disease vaccine candidate and oxytocin, a WHO-recommended injectable drug for reducing and preventing postpartum hemorrhage. Their heat-stable oxytocin tablet for sublingual delivery will soon be assessed in a first-of-its-kind clinical study set to launch in 2015. The study, a collaboration with the South African Medical Research Council, is part of PATH’s newly formed Global Health Innovation Accelerator—a key first step for expanding access to oxytocin in sub-Saharan Africa, where postpartum hemorrhage remains one of the leading causes of maternal mortality.
FDT formulations hold promise for transforming the means by which vaccines and essential medicines like oxytocin are typically packaged, stored, and delivered. Heat-stable tablets do not require refrigeration to ensure product quality (potency) during transport and storage. The novel product presentation also eliminates the need for safe injection equipment and training—an important feature for patients who may have limited access to skilled health workers or health care facilities.
We’re honored to have Manjari at PATH. Her transformative work is helping to resolve some of the most vexing challenges associated with health care access and delivery in low-resource settings.
Congratulations to Manjari!