In the race to cure malaria, the devastating disease that claims 1 million lives each year, every development is critical. The deadliest strain has grown increasingly resistant to chloroquine, the safest and cheapest anti-malarial drug available. The parasite that carries the virus has developed a “siphon” to purge the drug from itself. But instead of developing a new drug, a lengthy and costly process, Portland State University professor David Peyton and his research team at DesignMedix are re-engineering the original. These “reversed chloroquines” block the parasite’s siphon, killing the parasite. Some of these molecules are 10 times more effective than chloroquine alone, decreasing the required dosage significantly. Smaller doses could mean fewer side effects and lower manufacturing costs, Peyton says. The drug is expected to move to human trials in the next two to three years. Peyton sees the eradication of the disease as critical to the health of women and children, and for the health of malaria-stricken countries. “What the world needs now,” Peyton says, “is very good, very safe, very cheap anti-malarial drugs.”
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