Professor Michael Good this morning delivered the first in the series of the Vice-Chancellor’s Lectures to a packed audience at the auditorium of the Centre for African Wetlands, University of Ghana. The lecture was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey.
His lecture was on the topic, “Research Efforts, Past and Present, to develop an Effective and Affordable Malaria Vaccine”. Prof. Good, a NHMRC Australia Fellow at Griffith University is also the past Director of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research.
Following on his interests in the field of immunity and immunopathogenesis to malaria and Group A streptococcus/rheumatic fever, with particular relevance to the development of vaccines, Prof. Good said that he together with a team of researchers are currently testing new vaccines to prevent malaria and rheumatic heart disease, the latter of which is highly prevalent with indigenous populations such as Ghana.
He revealed that his team, using a different strategy are currently planning a Phase I human vaccine trial in Australia from January 2013 and if successful would like to test this vaccine in endemic countries.
The impact of malaria is well known with over 500 million cases occurring annually causing the deaths of nearly 1 million children, mostly in Africa. In Ghana, it has been estimated that there are over 25,000 lives lost each year as a result of malaria.
For nearly 90 years, researchers have been attempting to develop a vaccine for malaria. Initial efforts were focused on treating malaria parasites with formalin and using these as vaccines. This Pasteur-style approach was unsuccessful, but some success was achieved in the 1940s when Freund combined killed parasites with a potent adjuvant. Because of toxicity of the adjuvant, this approach could never be used for humans. However, a potential breakthrough came in 1983 when researchers in Melbourne and New York succeeded in cloning malaria antigens. A number of trials have been undertaken using blood stage and sporozoite stage antigens with RTS,S (based on the circumsporozoite protein [CSP]) being the most advanced in terms of testing. This vaccine induces up to 50% protection against infection and disease, but the efficacy is short lived because the antibody titer to the CSP declines rapidly. Other vaccines based on individual malaria proteins have been unsuccessful in large part because of antigenic polymorphism with antibodies to the vaccine antigen unable to neutralize merozoites expressing a different form of the antigen. (Culled from abstract to the lecture)
The Vice-Chancellor’s Occasional Lecture Series is a new initiative established by the Vice-Chancellor to enhance the academic environment at the University of Ghana. It is hoped that the lecture series will attract highly accomplished academics and other intellectuals to make presentations to staff and students of the University based on their research works and other relevant experiences.
Professor Michael Good’s visit to the University of Ghana was initiated by Professor Isabella Quakyi, former Dean of the School of Public Health, with whom Prof. Good has had extensive research collaboration. In brief remarks, Prof. Quakyi said that it is time Africans found their own antigens and promote them, adding that African health researchers need to challenge their basic thinking, and look for the right type of researchers.
In his concluding remarks, the Vice-Chancellor said the University was ready to support the work of researchers, and challenged the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and other research scientist in this regard. He expressed gratitude to Prof. Good for accepting to deliver the first in the series of the Vice-Chancellor’s Occasional Lecture and for his delivery which has no doubt challenged his colleagues in health research.
During his visit to the University of Ghana, Prof. Good also held discussions on future collaboration with relevant research scientists of the University. He also met with faculty and students from the College of Health Sciences.
(Full details of the lecture will be published soon)
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