The world’s first-ever malaria vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline, has won backing from European regulators, marking a critical step in the fight against a disease that kills nearly half a million people each year.
The vaccine, called Mosquirix, was approved by the European Medicines Agency, Glaxo GSK said on Friday. AlJazeera reports that the vaccine has received a green light from European drugs regulators who recommended it should be licensed for use in babies in Africa who are at risk of the mosquito-borne disease.
Fortune.com reports that Mosquirix, also known as RTS,S, has been in development for 30 years. It initially started as a concept within Glaxo; over the years, the Walter Reed Army Institute joined in on clinical development, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed more than $200 million in financing. In all, more than $565 million has been invested to create the vaccine.
“This is a historic achievement,” said Moncef Slaoui, head of Glaxo’s vaccine division, who has worked on the vaccine for 27 years. “Especially in the U.S., so many diseases are so effectively controlled by vaccines that we forget their power. But, when children die too commonly, you realize that vaccines are transformational.”
Malaria is caused by parasites that are transmitted to humans via the bites of infected mosquitos. The disease caused an estimated 584,000 deaths in 2013, and most of those were among African children. Malaria deaths have fallen by 47% globally since 2000 thanks to greater prevention efforts, including insecticide-treated nets, indoor spraying with insecticides, and better diagnostics and drugs for treatment.