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Algae Based Malaria Vaccine Advances In Testing

— The World Health Organization reports 2 billion people worldwide live in the malaria belt. Each year about 655,000 deaths, mostly among African children, are caused by malaria.

Aired 5/17/12 on KPBS News.

A cheap oral malaria vaccine made from algae, will advance to the next stage of testing at UC San Diego.

Infant receives medical attention for Malaria symptoms in Kenyan Clinic.

Above: Infant receives medical attention for Malaria symptoms in Kenyan Clinic.

Previous attempts at malaria vaccines haven’t worked well and scientists said even if they did, they would cost at least $100 a dose.

“It’s an economic and biological issue,” said Stephen Mayfield, a UC San Diego biology professor and director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology.

Mayfield’s scientific team created a potential malaria vaccine from algae. It worked in mice and could be made for less than a penny per dose.

“We calculate this will cost ... a fifth of a penny. When we do that math -- 2 billion people at (less than) a penny a dose -- we can actually think about making a vaccine to inoculate these people,” said Mayfield.

This summer, the edible version of Mayfield’s malaria vaccine will be tested on mice. If effective, human clinical trials will follow.

“We knew we could produce proteins in plants really cheap. The next advantage we have with algae is that you can eat it,” Mayfield said.

A patent application on the vaccine is pending. Study results were published today in the online, peer-review journal PLoS ONE.

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