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PATH and The University of Queensland create custom proteins for malaria diagnostics

March 5, 2021 by PATH

PATH and The University of Queensland (UQ)’s Protein Expression Facility have collaborated to develop and bring to market custom proteins to support the development and evaluation of point-of-care diagnostics for malaria.

Media contact: Lindsay Bosslet | PATH | media@path.org

PATH and UQ’s Protein Expression Facility are pleased to announce the availability of highly specific and sensitive malaria antigen reagents for immunological tests. These custom proteins will facilitate the development and performance benchmarking of rapid, accurate, and species-specific malaria diagnostics. The use of recombinant antigens in understanding the performance of new malaria diagnostics has been shown in recent productive collaborations between PATH and UQ.

Despite declines in malaria deaths and cases over the past two decades, progress has stalled, and malaria continues to sicken over 200 million people and cause more than 400,000 deaths each year. New tools to enable the development of highly sensitive diagnostics are urgently needed to reduce disease and death attributable to malaria.

Most life-threatening cases of malaria are attributable to infection with Plasmodium falciparum parasites which causes liver and kidney failure, convulsions, and coma. Although occasionally severe, infections with P. vivax and P. ovale generally cause less serious illness, but these parasites can remain dormant in the liver for many months, causing a reappearance of symptoms months, or even years later. In malaria-endemic countries, individuals can also be infected with two or more species of parasite, which is frequently unrecognized or underestimated. Failing to detect mixed infections can result in inadequate or incorrect treatment that can result in severe disease. There is therefore an urgent need to develop diagnostic methods that are simple, sensitive, and Plasmodium species-specific.

“The accurate and rapid diagnosis of species-specific malaria infection presents a challenge in most countries where it is endemic,” suggested Gonzalo Domingo, Senior Scientific Director and malaria diagnostics lead in the Diagnostics Program at PATH. “We are excited in our collaboration with The University of Queensland to provide custom malaria proteins that support the development of simple, sensitive immunological tests that are able to quickly and accurately differentiate Plasmodium species.”

“The collaboration between PATH and UQ’s Protein Expression Facility to develop and commercialize highly specific and sensitive Plasmodium antigens for immunological tests will help developers, manufacturers, and academic researchers to assess the reliability of malaria test results,” stated Professor Linda Lua, Director of UQ’s Protein Expression Facility.

In PATH’s role as a catalytic product development partner, PATH hopes that the availability of these proteins will de-risk and incentivize diagnostic researchers and manufacturers in developing more appropriate RDTs for malaria. These reagents are available for purchase and can be obtained directly from The University of Queensland Protein Expression Facility by submitting an inquiry to pef@uq.edu.au or via pef.uq.edu.au.

Funding to support the development of custom proteins for malaria diagnostics has been provided to PATH by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About PATH

PATH is a global organization that works to accelerate health equity by bringing together public institutions, businesses, social enterprises, and investors to solve the world’s most pressing health challenges. With expertise in science, health, economics, technology, advocacy, and dozens of other specialties, PATH develops and scales solutions—including vaccines, drugs, devices, diagnostics, and innovative approaches to strengthening health systems worldwide. Learn more at www.path.org.

About The University of Queensland Protein Expression Facility

The Protein Expression Facility enables researchers to deliver scientific excellence, develops innovative protein technologies for the bioeconomy and fosters the next generation workforce in biomanufacturing. With expertise in multiple protein production platforms, the Protein Expression Facility designs protein-specific strategies to support research and development in academia, industry, and government sectors. Learn more at www.pef.uq.edu.au.