Malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum is the most dangerous form of the disease, with the highest rates of complications and mortality. It affects an estimated 200-300 million people annually, resulting in the death of about 0.7 million individuals particularly babies and young children. The P. falciparum parasite is a complex organism with several different life stages in humans and Anopheles mosquitoes. Despite huge efforts over the last 4 decades to produce an effective malaria vaccine, success in the field has been modest with the most advanced vaccine giving only limited efficacy against severe disease in infants.
A highly effective malaria vaccine is a major goal of global health research and will likely require a multi-stage product since vaccines targeting individual stages have had limited success. The objective of the MultiMalVax consortium is to develop a highly effective multi-stage malaria vaccine to the point of proof-of-concept phase II testing in Europe, prior to trials in malaria-endemic areas. Remarkable recent advances in vaccine design for all four stages of the P. falciparum parasite’s life-cycle allow testing of a multi-stage multi-component vaccine for the first time, with strong chances of success.