Oct 8 - British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline will seek marketing approval for the world's first malaria vaccine next year after trial data showed it significantly cut cases of the disease in African children. As Joanna Partridge reports it will be welcome news for a UK company recently battered by a corruption scandal in China.
Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, mostly babies in sub-Saharan Africa. This child in Tanzania is taking part in a trial for the world's first malaria vaccine RTS,S Britain's GlaxoSmithKline is hoping to get marketing approval for the injection next year after the trial significantly cut cases in children. Scientists say an effective vaccine is key for eradicating malaria. Doctor Allan Pamba helped carry out the trial for GSK. SOUNDBITE: Allan Pamba, GSK doctor, saying (English): "The vaccine reduces by about half the risk of malaria for children between 5 and 17 months and by about a quarter for children 6 - 12 weeks. It's a huge population of children we've been following, about 15,000 across 11 sites in 7 countries across Africa." If drug regulators give it the green light, the World Health Organisation may recommend use of the vaccine in two years' time. But getting it to patients won't be easy, says Mark Hollis, an Africa Pharmaceuticals Analyst at IHS Global Insight. SOUNDBITE: Mark Hollis, Africa Pharmaceuticals Analyst, IHS Global Insight (English): "There's often challenges around vaccine uptake in poorer regions of the world, issues around patient compliance, especially where you have several doses of a vaccine. There's also issues around funding as well, you know who's providing funding for that and also do governments perceive benefit as well." GSK has been developing the vaccine for three decades, but it's unlikely to give its bottom line a boost. The drugmaker's promised that RTS,S will be sold at cost, plus a 5% margin which will be reinvested in malaria research. But it is good news for GSK after a turbulent few months. Earlier this year it was accused of corruption in China and saw sales there fall by 30%. RTS,S may not be the final answer to GSK's problems or malaria. But used alongside other measures to contol the disease - like mosquito nets, insecticides and anti-malaria drugs, it may well make a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.