BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 4, 2014 – Resistance is … inevitable. “We can’t afford to have huge gaps between discoveries of new antimalarial products; the pace of innovation is quite literally a matter of life and death,” said Virginia Tech’s David G.I. Kingston, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, director of the Center for Drug Discovery, and an affiliate with the Fralin Life Science Institute. Despite strong worldwide programs that have eradicated malaria from a number of countries, resistance to current malarial drugs continues and about 600,000 people a year die from the disease, mostly children. As the disease and carrier mosquitoes build up resistance to the current crop of antimalarial drugs and pesticides, concern is growing that mortality could increase.
As part of a five-year grant worth more than $2 million, Kingston is working with the Natural Products Discovery Institute in an attempt to isolate natural products that can be used to fight malaria. “When Merck Pharmaceuticals got out of the research and development side of their business, they gave their collection of natural plant extracts to NPDI,” said Kingston. “We are working with NPDI to analyze their extracts in an effort to find suitable antimalarial compounds.” Working with Maria Belen Cassera, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Virginia Tech, and also an affiliate of the Fralin Life Science Institute, and Michael Goetz of the Blumberg Institute (formerly the Institute for Hepatitis and Virus Research) in Pennsylvania, Kingston is engaged in what he calls a race to find new drugs.